Soon after I began to study niacin I saw that it was particularly helpful for aging people. In my book, “Niacin Therapy in Psychiatry”1, I summarized the literature showing that niacin might be helpful, and referred to a physician who had suggested that niacin might prevent senile changes. It did, and I described fifteen elderly patients who had been treated: ten became and stayed well, three were a lot better, and two showed no response at all. I concluded, “These few case reports as well as those of others support the suggestion that nicotinic acid can prevent or reverse senile mental and physical changes. The best responses are obtained when massive doses of the vitamin are started before the senile changes are well established, probably because irreversible damage occurs in the brain cells. Gregory’s suggestion that results were much better when the nicotinic acid was given to patients who were under sixty-five and in whom signs of senility had been present for six months or less is supported. It follows that since nicotinic acid and its amide are very safe and have few side effects, none serious, it seems reasonable that all patients diagnosed as “senile” or arteriosclerotic should be given a fair trial with those two substances.” I wrote that in 1962. It was like tossing a pebble into the middle of the Atlantic and expecting a ripple in New York City.
The Canadian Hong Kong veterans aged four years for each year they were incarcerated. The only ones who recovered were the few who started taking niacin. A handful of American prisoners of war also started on niacin and they too were much better after that.
There are many reasons why niacin should be so helpful. One of the recent ideas is that high HDL cholesterol protects against dementia2. Niacin is the only cholesterol lowering substance that also elevates HDL. None of the statins do so. Ames3 suggests that optimum intake of nutrients will increase longevity.
In our book, “Feel Better, Live Longer”, Hoffer and Foster4 write, “The ideal substance for preventing the effects of stress and pathological blood lipid levels should have the following properties: (1) It must be effective, (2) It must be safe with long continued use, (3) It must be inexpensive, and (4) It must be readily available and (5) It should have other desirable healing properties. Only niacin had all these properties. It lowers low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, lowers triglycerides, lowers Lipo-A and elevates HDL. The elevation of HDL may be its most important property. It is safe. Dr. Hoffer has been taking 3 grams daily for 50 years. It is cheap compared to any and all drugs. It is readily available and will continue to be so unless governments under pharmaceutical pressure place an embargo on its use in correct concentrations”.
In our book on niacin we wrote, “Alzheimer’s disease has traditionally been considered untreatable, except by a few drugs which, at best, may slow the degenerative process a little. Niacin does not help fully developed Alzheimer’s disease either. Dr. Hoffer has tried niacin on several Alzheimer’s patients with no response whatever. But there is growing evidence that it can be prevented by the proper use of nutrients. Foster5, for example, has argued at length that this disease is caused by an excess of monomeric aluminum in people who are calcium and magnesium deficient.”
“Nevertheless, there appears to be a statistically significant link between a low dietary intake of niacin and a high risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. Morris and coworkers,6 for example, conducted a prospective study of the niacin intake of 6,158 Chicago residents 65 years of age or older. This established that the lower the daily intake of niacin, the greater the risk of becoming an Alzheimer’s disease patient. Specifically, the quintile with the highest mean daily intake (45 milligrams) had a 70 percent decrease in incidence of this disease compared to the quintile with the lowest mean daily niacin consumption (14 milligrams)”.