Some job applicants take niacin to remove evidence of illegal drug use if they must take a urine test as a condition of employment. Some people take niacin to cleanse their bodies of toxins accumulated because of diet or environmental factors. But little evidence supports the use of niacin as a cleansing agent.
At least one person required a liver transplant after taking large doses of niacin in an attempt to pass a drug screening test, according to a report published in April 2007 in the “Annals of Emergency Medicine.” Manoj Mittal, author of the study and a fellow in emergency medicine at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, noted the increased use -- and serious consequences -- of taking large doses of niacin. He said that niacin will not help you alter the results of a urine test, but may make you gravely ill.
Less serious consequences of taking niacin to cleanse your body include nausea, vomiting, rapid heartbeat and rashes. In 2005, more than 3,100 niacin users called poison control centers around the United States to report such symptoms. Some required medical care. Your diet provides about 14 mg to 16 mg of niacin daily. Callers taking niacin as a cleaning agent reported taking up to 500 times this amount -- 8,000 mg -- for non-medical reasons, such as removing toxins and drugs from their systems.
Niacin and other B vitamins aid digestion. They help your body convert carbohydrates to sugar to provide your body with needed energy and help you metabolize proteins and fats. Online rumors abound that taking large amounts of niacin will speed the process and cleanse your system of built-up toxins. But science does not support the theory. Vomiting and nausea, two side effects of taking high doses of nausea, may quickly empty your digestive system of a recent meal, but will not rapidly flush stored toxins out of your system.
Medically sound reasons for taking high doses of niacin include treating high cholesterol and Type 1 diabetes. But taking niacin in doses of more than 100 mg a day for any reason poses serious health risks, including stomach ulcers, gout, vision loss and liver damage. If a doctor prescribes niacin, get your liver checked periodically for possible damage. If your diet includes foods such as beef, chicken, beans, nuts, fish, milk, eggs and cereal, you likely don’t need to take extra niacin. Dietary niacin promotes liver function, and a healthy liver helps remove toxins from your body. If you believe additional cleansing would help, ask your doctor about safe and effective remedies.
- University of Maryland Medical Center; Vitamin B3 (Niacin)
- Medline Plus: Niacin and Niacinamide (Vitamin B3)
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; Use of Niacin in Attempts to Defeat Urine Drug Testing -- Five States, January to September 2006
- Annals of Emergency Medicine: Toxicity From the Use of Niacin to Beat Urine Drug Screening
- Jupiterimages/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images
This article reflects the views of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of Jillian Michaels or JillianMichaels.com.