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Niacin, also called vitamin B3, is needed for DNA repair, synthesis of steroidal hormones and energy metabolism within the body. A strong property of niacin is its ability to relax the muscle tissue composing arteries, which increases their diameter. This process, called vasodilation, leads to increased blood flow and reduced blood pressure. According to “Biochemistry of Human Nutrition,” niacin also raises blood levels of HDL, the "good" cholesterol, and reduces levels of LDL, the “bad” cholesterol, which further improves cardiovascular health. Perhaps most important with respect to anxiety, niacin is an antidote to adrenaline, which is often over-produced in those experiencing anxiety.
According to “Biochemical, Physiological and Molecular Aspects of Human Nutrition,” it is possible that niacin’s ability to increase blood flow, reduce blood pressure, eliminate excess adrenaline and regulate hormones could contribute to feelings of relaxation in those who are stressed. However, niacin is not considered a valid treatment for anxiety or depression by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration or the American Medical Association. Further, higher doses of niacin often lead to “flushing,” an uncomfortable redness, itchiness and mild burning that's due to widespread vasodilation of blood vessels beneath the skin. Ironically, niacin flushing might actually increase anxiety in those who take too much.