There is an ongoing debate about natural vitamins versus synthetic vitamins. Which is better for your body? Do synthetic vitamins provide the same health benefits as natural vitamins? Is there much of a difference?
There are many reasons that someone might choose to use synthetic vitamins to supplement their diet in addition to vitamins that occur naturally. Natural vitamins occur in plants, fruits, animals and minerals, while synthetic vitamins are man-made compounds that are produced in a lab to mimic the effects one might achieve with natural vitamins.
With a few notable exceptions, synthetic vitamins and natural vitamins can act as equal sources of nutrients. However, there are some cases where the natural vitamin is the better choice, and (perhaps surprisingly) some cases where the synthetic vitamin is preferable. This is the case for niacin (vitamin B3). Because the synthetic form of the vitamin does not cause a side effect associated with niacin, the synthetic (inositol powder) is sometimes seen as the preferred choice.
The benefits of Vitamin B3, or niacin, have been extensively studied. One study, in particular, has found that niacin essentially “re-wires the brain,” which researchers say may be important implications for stroke patients.
Niacin is also frequently used to treat lipid disorders and cardiovascular diseases. It has an important role in helping to support healthy circulation. Niacin also works in the lining of arteries and blood vessels, helping to support proper vascular contractions; and may also support normal blood pressure.
Niacin’s benefits also extend to the outside of the body. In particular, niacin may be useful in supporting skin health. Studies have examined how niacin can support skin cells to counteract UV or radiation damage.
Niacin Side Effects
Some people who take niacin in its natural form may experience an uncomfortable side effect, however. Niacin can cause tingling or prickling in the skin, or a self-described skin condition known as ‘flushing.’ People experiencing those side effects sometimes choose to use the synthetic form of niacin, which is known as inositol hexanicotinate. You may know it simply (or have seen it sold) as inositol powder.
Inositol powder, or inositol hexanicotinate (IHN), is made of six nicotinic acid molecules, with an inositol molecule in the center. If you don’t have a degree in chemistry, what’s important to know is that while inositol powder is not an essential nutrient or vitamin, it does mimic the effects of an essential vitamin (niacin).
Potential Benefits of Inositol Powder
Like niacin, inositol powder is beneficial in supporting healthy blood vessels and maintaining cardiovascular health. Unlike niacin, inositol rarely causes flushing. This is because inositol powder causes a slow release of nicotinic acid, making the appearance of flushing unlikely.
Inositol Powder and Raynaud’s Phenomenon
Raynaud’s Phenomenon is a condition, usually caused by cold or stress, that causes the blood vessels in the fingers or toes (and sometimes other extremities, like earlobes, nose, or lips) to narrow, causing the skin to turn pale, blue, or red, and causing the body part to feel numb or cold. While Raynaud’s Phenomenon rarely causes any permanent damage, in some severe cases, it can cause deterioration of the pads of fingertips or toes or gangrenous ulcers near the fingertips.
While no one knows what causes Raynaud’s Phenomenon, studies do show that inositol powder may reduce the frequency of Raynaud’s attacks. The studies examining this phenomenon involved patients taking high doses of inositol powder. Anyone supplementing inositol powder in high doses should only do so under the supervision of a doctor. In Europe, inositol powder is a prescribed medication (under the name Hexopal) for Raynaud’s.
How to Take Inositol Powder
One of the benefits of inositol powder is that it is easy to take! Simply stir the inositol powder into your preferred favorite beverage, and enjoy!
For those who prefer natural vitamins over synthetics, but want to avoid the flushing that may occur by taking niacin, Natural Healthy Concepts also sells no-flush niacin.