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Could Chronic Niacin Deficiency Be a Root Cause of Increase in “Deranged” Violent Crimes?

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Story at-a-glance -

  • Reliance on denatured processed foods may be leading to widespread nutritional imbalances, some of which have a marked influence on psychiatric health, such as niacin
  • Pellagra is a disorder caused by niacin deficiency, which includes mental symptoms such as irrational anger, feelings of persecution, mania, and dementia
  • Research begun in the 1950’s has shown high-dose niacin supplementation to be a very effective treatment option for mental illnesses such as schizophrenia. In studies using 3,000 milligrams of niacin a day, an astounding 80 percent of schizophrenia cases were resolved
  • Studies have also confirmed the B vitamin can successfully treat attention deficit disorder, general psychosis, obsessive-compulsive disorder, depression, and violent behavior
  • High doses of vitamin B3 (niacin) may also combat hard-to-treat superbugs, including antibiotic-resistance staph infections. The research showed high doses of the vitamin boosted the immune system 1,000 fold, effectively killing off the harmful bugs

By Dr. Mercola

As mass killings occur around the nation by obviously disturbed perpetrators at increasing frequency, there's plenty of blame to go around. The medical system gets blamed for not identifying these killers in time; the gun lobby gets blamed for fighting stricter gun regulations; and producers of violent video games along with incessant and glorified violence on TV certainly does nothing to combat despondency and desensitization.

But what if the solution could be found in one's diet, or in more extreme cases, in an inexpensive supplement bottle? Blogger Kimberly Hartke1 offers some ideas that are truly food for thought― and it's something that processed food manufacturers may not want to admit.

"What if our heavy reliance on processed and fast foods is leading to widespread nutrient imbalances?" she writes. "Dr. Weston A. Price, a researcher in the 1930′s found that primitive tribes eating a whole foods, natural diet high in animal foods and animal fat had no need for prisons. The moral character of these isolated people was strong. They were not incapacitated mentally or physically..."

One nutritional deficiency in particular that may have the potential to wreak havoc on your psyche is niacin (vitamin B3). Pellagra2 is a condition caused by niacin deficiency, and is clinically manifested by the 4 D' s:

  1. Photosensitive dermatitis
  2. Diarrhea
  3. Dementia, and
  4. Death

Pellagra's Violent Side Effects

The disease originates in your gut, with GI tract symptoms preceding dermatitis, and the condition is well known to be associated with malnourishment and the "poor man's diet" consisting primarily of corn products. Pellagra was epidemic in the American South during the early 1900's, and we just might be dealing with a similar epidemic of malnutrition today. A quote from the book Nourishing Traditions: The Cookbook that Challenges Politically Correct Nutrition and the Diet Dictocrats reads:

"The clinical description of the typical poor Southerner, any time between about 1900 and 1940, comes alive in the novels of William Faulkner–the brooding sullenness, suddenly shattered by outbursts of irrational anger, persecution, mania, the feeling of people living in a cruel and demented world of their own… Doctors knew very well that diet was at the bottom of all the misery they saw around them, and that disease could be kept at bay by a balanced food supply…"

Hartke continues:

"... Barbara Stitt3, an author who once worked as a probation officer... found that changing the diet of ex-offenders eliminated the hostility and other symptoms that would lead them to act out in a criminal fashion. Her book is aptly titled, Food & Behavior: A Natural Connection and her work seems to confirm the findings of Dr. Weston A. Price on nutritional injury and the role it plays in juvenile delinquency and adult crimes.

A review of Barbara's book mentions her concern about reactive hypoglycemia, sub-clinical pellegra and vitamin B deficiencies being at the root of violent criminal's actions. Check out this revealing quote from the review4: 'The startling part of sub-clinical pellagra, like hypoglycemia, is that the symptoms also mirror those of schizophrenia, a problem so widespread that those who suffer from it occupy one out of every four hospital beds in the United States.'"

Dr. Stitt's book also discusses other vitamin B deficiencies, such as B1, B2, B6 and B12—all of which have an uncanny ability to produce symptoms of neuropsychiatric disorders.

Credit: Food and Behavior by Barbara Stitt

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Niacin as a Treatment for Schizophrenia

I recently interviewed Dr. Andrew W. Saul on the topic of niacin. Dr. Saul has over 35 years of experience in natural health education and is currently serving as editor-in-chief of the Orthomolecular Medicine News Service. He's authored over 175 publications and 11 books, and has been named as one of the seven health pioneers by Psychology Today. He's also featured in the movie Food Matters, which I'm sure many of you have seen.

Dr. Saul is co-author of the excellent book, Niacin: The Real Story, along with one of the leading niacin researchers, Dr. Abram Hoffer. Niacin, Dr. Hoffer found, may indeed be a "secret" treatment for psychological disorders, including schizophrenia, which can be notoriously difficult to address.

"Dr. Hoffer is probably the world authority on therapeutic use of niacin. He started doing tests, studies, and research into niacin back in the early 1950s. And by 1954, Abram Hoffer had performed the first double-blind, placebo-controlled nutrition studies in the history of psychiatry," Dr. Saul says.

"Now, the early 50s were an odd time. Drugs were on the move; more were coming along. But they hadn't developed to the point where they are today, to put it mildly. Dr. Hoffer had a PhD in biochemistry, and he specialized in cereal biochemistry, which means the study of the vitamins and nutrients in grain. He was also a medical doctor. He was also a board-certified psychiatrist, and head of psychiatric research for one of the provinces in Canada... Dr. Hoffer observed that schizophrenia had symptoms that were very similar to those of pellagra. 

Pellagra is extreme or total niacin deficiency. Pellagrins also – in addition to skin problems and many other things – have mental illness symptoms.

When vitamin B3 or niacin was first added as an enrichment or as a fortification to flour, about half of the people in mental institutions went home. This is not a well-known fact. They were there not because they were mentally ill – because of genetic, environment, or social reasons – but because they were malnourished... He wondered about the half that didn't go home.

What about the people that had a little bit of niacin, but didn't get better? ... [H]e started giving what at the time were preposterously high doses of niacin: 3,000 milligrams a day. And he was curing schizophrenia in 80 percent of the cases.

This is astonishing. The cure rate for schizophrenia with drug therapy is not particularly good. Dr. Hoffer saw again and again that niacin worked. Then he studied it, did the placebo-controlled, double-blind test, and started writing paper after paper on this. At that point, the American Psychiatric Association literally blacklisted him."

According to Dr. Saul, other researchers have since confirmed Dr. Hoffer's findings, and found that niacin can also be successfully used in the treatment of other mental disorders, such as:

  • Attention deficit disorder
  • General psychosis
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder
  • Bipolar disorder

Anger and Behavioral Issues "Miraculously" Solved with High-Dose Vitamin B3

Dr. Saul offers a powerful example of how niacin can help address violent behavioral problems and/or attention deficit disorders:

"I knew a neighbor who had a boy who was really, really in trouble – constantly in trouble at school, constantly in trouble at home. He was violent. This was really serious. This was more than ADHD. I'm calling it ADHD, because that's what the boy's doctors called it. But the fact is it was far beyond that. Nevertheless, they gave him one of the usual drugs for attention deficit disorder, and it made him worse.

So now he was even more violent and even more psychotic. The parents were in a state as you can imagine; the kid's only 13, everything's falling apart at home. They learned about Dr. Hoffer's niacin approach. And because it was a child, they figured, 'Well, we'll start him at a lower level.' They gave him 1,500 milligrams a day of niacinamide.

Now, niacinamide and niacin have the same psychiatric benefits. They both work. The difference is niacin will cause a flush in almost everyone who takes it in quantity, especially for the first couple of weeks...

... The parents noticed an immediate improvement. Within days, the child was less angry. He was less troubled at school. He was less oppositional. He was less violent. They immediately figured that if a little helped, maybe more would help more. They wouldn't know unless they tried, and they had no other options. Again, medication was making him worse not better.

They took him totally off of his medication, and they increased his niacin to ultimately about 5,000 milligrams a day. They even got the boy's psychiatrist to prescribe niacin, so he could take it at school. The school nurse was giving the boy niacinamide twice a day at school, as well as at home. All of a sudden, calls were coming from the teachers, saying, 'The kid was just transformed. He was doing great.' At home, everything was better.

This young teenager was taking nearly 5,000 milligrams a day of niacinamide. Now, this is an important caution for people thinking of doing this. Niacinamide has a disadvantage, and that is it's more likely to cause nausea at very high doses. And the boy did start experiencing nausea at around 5,000 milligrams a day. So, what they did was cut back the niacinamide quantity and started giving him more niacin. He got used to the flush. Then he was able to take the full high dose."

Niacin—Potentially the Best Therapy for Many Forms of Mental Illness

A key point Dr. Saul brings up in the full interview is that certain people have what Dr. Hoffer referred to as niacin dependency, meaning they need more niacin on a regular basis. Essentially, they're beyond deficient—they're dependent on high-doses of niacin in order to remain well. This particularly appears to be the case with mental disorders.

"Dr. Hoffer said that drug therapy alone has a cure rate of 10 percent. He added to that, 'Drugs make a well person sick. How can drugs make a sick person well?' He saw this over and over and over and over again... Dr. Hoffer's experience was buttressed by Dr. Humphrey Osmond and a number of other researchers who have confirmed in practice that niacin is the best therapy for many forms of mental illness. And not only that, drug therapy is making people worse...

People would be better off – in many forms of mental illness – if they had no medication. But with niacin, we're not just negating, we're affirming. Niacin is a way that the person can tell within a few hours if it's going to help. If someone has anxiety, depression, psychosis, or schizophrenia, if they take high doses of niacin, they'll notice two things right away. The first is: they're going to flush like crazy. And the second is: they're going to feel better.

Now, as far as the 'flush like crazy' thing goes, people are more concerned with the niacin flush than they need to be. But if you just can't contain the idea of having a niacin flush, take inositol hexaniacinate, and that will work just fine. Dr. Hoffer said, "The best cure for the niacin flush is more niacin." If you keep taking the niacin, the histamine flushes out of the body and the vasodilation stops. It takes, perhaps, a couple of weeks."

Vitamin B3 a Potential Weapon Against Antibiotic-Resistant Superbugs

In related news, a new study5 suggests vitamin B3 may be able to combat superbugs that modern medicine is finding it harder and harder to fight, including antibiotic-resistance staph infections. The research showed that high doses of the vitamin boosted the immune system by 1,000 times, giving the researchers hope that they may have found a new―and possibly better―way to fight infection.

According to BBC News6:

"B3 increases the numbers and efficacy of neutrophils, white blood cells that can kill and eat harmful bugs. The study, in the Journal of Clinical Investigation, could lead to a "major change in treatment", a UK expert said."

One of the researchers is quoted as saying:

"This could give us a new way to treat Staph infections that can be deadly, and might be used in combination with current antibiotics. It's a way to tap into the power of the innate immune system and stimulate it to provide a more powerful and natural immune response."

More Information

Dr. Hoffer founded and produced the Journal of Orthomolecular Medicine back in 1968. Its archives are online at, and they're free access. For more information about niacin, you can search Dr. Saul's website