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How is vitamin B3 deficiency linked to aggression, cannibalism, pellagra, and schizophrenia?

How is vitamin B3 deficiency linked to aggression, cannibalism, pellagra, and schizophrenia?Vitamin B3 (niacin) is important for our nervous system and mental balance. Epidemiological studies have shown that vitamin B3-deficient diets are linked to aggression, and increased prevalence of homicide and suicide among people and cannibalism among animals. More than 60 years ago, Dr. Abram Hoffer observed that high doses of vitamin B3 had a positive effect on schizophrenia, and later studies have shown similar results. Lack of vitamin B3 may be caused by genetic, dietary, or environmental factors that are easy to correct.

Vitamin B3 is water-soluble, and because it is not stored in the body, we need to consume it regularly. Vitamin is also called niacin, which is a common term for nicotinic acid and nicotinamide. Pellagra is the classic deficiency disease and is characterized by the four Ds: Diarrhea, dermatitis, dementia, and death. Pellagra turned into an epidemic after the industrial refinement of corn and wheat, two major dietary staples in our diet. Later on, research has shown that schizophrenia is also one of the symptoms of pellagra

Cannibalism and aggressive behavior

Hamsters that are fed a corn-based diet devoid of vitamin B3 have been seen to kill their siblings and offspring. This was observed in a recent study carried out by researchers from the University of Strasbourg. Hamster mothers who ate a corn-only diet placed their offspring together with the corn as part of their meal. Only 5 percent of the baby animals survived when their mothers were given corn alone. In another groups of hamsters where the mothers got a balanced diet, 80% of the baby animals survived. It turned out later that vitamin B3 supplements completely eliminated the aggressive and cannibalistic behavior among the hamsters.
The researcher Gerhard Baumgard says, and several epidemiological studies show that insufficient corn-based diets are associated with a higher prevalence of aggression, homicide, and suicide in humans.

Pellagra, increased violence, and necessary vitamin B3-enrichment of foods

After the 1880s, it became common practice to grind and refine flour and corn in steel mills. The corn lost even more nutrition because of the industrial processing but it was much cheaper, it kept longer, and it was more available to the public. The refinement process took its toll, however. In the United States alone, more than 100,000 people died of pellagra. When scientists discovered that the disease was a result of getting too little vitamin B3, the Americans introduced mandatory vitamin B3-enrichment of food as a way of preventing it.
Within a few years, the enrichment had reduced pellagra-related mortality to a tenth in some states, and even though this is just the tip of the iceberg, this story plus several studies confirm how important this vitamin is for humans and animals.

Pellagra and schizophrenia – where is the link?

Approximately 10 years after the vitamin B3 enrichment program had been started, Dr. Abram Hoffer (1917-2009) observed certain similarities between patients he treated for pellagra and schizophrenia. He therefore assumed that schizophrenics also had an increased need for vitamin B3. Beginning in the 1950s, Hoffer treated more than 10,000 schizophrenia patients with high doses of vitamin B3 and noted that many of the patients improved substantially.
According to Hoffer, schizophrenia may be caused by oxidized adrenalin derivates, also known as a toxin called adrenochrome. He claimed that vitamin B3 is able to reduce adrenochrome, and the vitamin also regulates dopamine and other neurotransmitters. Other studies show that vitamin B3 can even repair damaged nerve cell DNA.
In his book “Psychiatry yesterday and today”, Hoffer describes how schizophrenia is an element of the deficiency disease called pellagra. He also explains that, unless the patient gets the right amount of vitamin B3, schizophrenia is untreatable, no matter what other vitamins and minerals are administered. Hoffer and other practicing doctors have observed that large doses of vitamin B3 can counteract acute schizophrenia, but the large doses are not as effective when the condition is chronic.

Why does lack of vitamin B3 cause aggression and cannibalism?

According to Dr. William Todd, a researcher, a single nutrient like vitamin B3 may counteract aggression and cannibalism when given in the right amounts. Roughly speaking, this is because vitamin B3 is involved in a multitude of biochemical reactions and because some humans appear to need more of the nutrient than others, for some reason.
In the liver, vitamin B3 (niacin) is converted into the coenzyme NAD (nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide), which is involved in over 400 biochemical reactions. Consequently, lack of vitamin B3 may affect our energy turnover, nervous system, mental balance, cardiovascular system, vision and many other functions that depend on the living conditions, genes, and dispositions of each individual.

Vitamin B3 deficiency and the need for higher intake levels

Lack of vitamin B3 may be a result of poor dietary habits, high blood sugar, alcohol abuse, liver ailments, diuretics, ionizing radiation, and environmental toxins. However, according to leading scientists, the main cause is DNA variations that make it difficult for cells to bind NAD. Therefore, people with these variations are naturally prone to having an increased need for vitamin B3 compared with others. This increased need serves to help them get enough vitamin B3 to support the more than 400 biochemical reactions that are necessary for preventing or treating other diseases.
Hoffer observed that schizophrenics have an increased need for vitamin B3. Historical experience coupled with hamster studies indicate that people who lack empathy and have aggressive and violent behavior may have an increased need for vitamin B3.
When you consider the problems, which we experience today with aggressive and violent behavior, and the human and economic costs it entails, it is ironic, researcher and PhD William Todd finds, that large doses of vitamin B3 are not tested as part of a therapy to help these people attain a positive approach to life.

Vitamin B3 is important for

  • the conversion of carbohydrate, fat, and protein into energy
  • the cardiovascular system and cholesterol balance
  • the nervous system and mental balance
  • skin and mucosa
  • repair of damaged nerve cell DNA
  • detoxification and reduction of toxins

Therapeutic use of vitamin B3/niacin

The reference intake level (RI) for vitamin B3 is 16 mg, a dosage that effectively prevents the deficiency disease called pellagra. As mentioned earlier, some people may have an increased need for the nutrient for various reasons. They need so-called therapeutic doses. In his research, Abram Hoffer gave 1 gram (1,000 mg) of vitamin B3 (in the form of nicotinic acid) three times daily. These high doses are claimed to be safe, and Hoffer used his therapy for more than 60 years without observing any serious side effects.
It is important to use a niacin form that is released rapidly, as other form that are released slowly may cause liver poisoning. Regular vitamin B3 (niacin) is inexpensive and available and is not a slow-release form. It is also important to begin with a low dose because the vitamin can trigger a “niacin flush” with transient blushing that is a result of the blood vessel dilation. The best way to get used to this blushing is by starting with a 100 mg niacin dose (nicotinic acid) and gradually increasing the dose until it is possible to take 1,000 mg without any signs of blushing.
Pregnant women should avoid taking larger doses of niacin, as it may cause damage to the unborn child.

Conclusion and orthomolecular medicine

Several vitamin B3 researchers assume that many people with psychological disorders may feel better if doctors changed their strategies. Instead of systematically using chemical drugs that do not treat the underlying cause, the doctors should pay attention to the fact that some patients may have genetic variations that increase their need for vitamin B3. This theory has already been confirmed by a number of genetic conditions that respond well to vitamin B3.
The concept orthomolecular medicine was developed and introduced by Nobel Prize-winner, Dr. Linus Pauling, who was inspired by Abram Hoffer. In the case of pathological conditions, the body requires higher doses of vitamins and minerals because it has difficulty with absorbing and utilizing the nutrients or because they are broken down and excreted at an increased rate due to various stress factors.

High doses of vitamin B3 and vitamin C were originally used to treat psychological disorders and cancer. The list of high therapeutic vitamin and mineral doses is ever increasing, depending on the individual patient’s symptoms and needs. Unlike chemical drugs that are associated with a number of side effects, orthomolecular medicine corrects the body’s deficiencies and imbalances in a natural way, simply because the administered substances are essential, in the first place.

Vitamin B3 sources

Vitamin B3 is mainly found in foods like meat, fish, poultry, nuts, kernels, and seeds. There is also vitamin B3 in eggs, whole-grain, vegetables, and fruit

Useful information about supplements

Label declarations often write NE or niacin equivalents instead of mg (milligrams). This is because the amino acid tryptophan is also converted to niacin in the body. The tryptophan content in any consumer good is therefore calculated in such a way that 60 mg of tryptophan equals 1 mg of niacin. NE represents the sum of niacin and converted tryptophan.
Supplements should normally be taken together with other B vitamins and not together with antacids.


Penberthy. WT. Niacin rescues cannibalistic hamsters. The historical significance of 1940s mandatory niacin enrichment. OMS 2017

Mawson A, Jacobs K. Corn consumption, tryptophan, and cross-national homicide rates. Orthomolecular Psychiatry 1978

Hoffer A. Psychiatry yesterday (1950) and today (2007). From despair to hope with orthomolecular therapy. Victoria, BC, Canada: Trafford Publishing 2009

Guyton JR, Bays HE. Safety consideration with niacin therapy. American Journal of Cardiology 2007

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