One of the reasons the old have more emotional disorders than the young is that they tend to skimp on their diets. They often have no family to cook for, and don’t consider it worthwhile to prepare good food just for them. Their reduced energy levels incline them toward shortcuts in food preparation. Too often they subsist on processed foods like TV dinners rather than shopping for fresh vegetables daily and cooking them in small quantities for each meal.
Financial problems also play a part. Since most retired people must live on severely curtailed incomes and because they value some of the diversions of life more than sound food, they tend to save money by living on cheap, non-nutritious foods.
Yesterday, while lunching in a restaurant, I observed an elderly lady sitting at a nearby table. Her lunch consisted of a tiny hamburger lost in a large bun, an anemic slice of tomato atop a dollar-size lettuce leaf, and a generous helping of mashed potatoes with gravy. For desert she had a vanilla ice-cream sundae. From her tired movements and the sad look on her face I suspected that this was a rather typical meal for her.
When! see people eating such food, especially when they also appear depressed or otherwise emotionally disturbed, it always makes me feel depressed, too. I have an intense urge to engage them in a discussion about food, to implore them to pay more attention to their diets. I always restrain myself because people would naturally consider it presumptuous for a stranger to tell them how to conduct their affairs. But 1 hope this article will reach such people and find them in a receptive mood.
SPECIAL NIACIN NEEDS OF THE ELDERLY
I also greatly favor the routine administration of niacin to most elderly people. Aside from its other benefits, discussed in an earlier article, this fascinating vitamin has an additional effect that has nothing directly to do with its action as a-vitamin. Niacin counteracts blood clotting tendencies and is therefore of special interest for the older age group that is more prone to blood clots in the brain (stroke). Niacin is also thought to give protection against blood clots in the blood vessels of the heart the condition known as coronary thrombosis (or heart attack).
One cause of heart attacks might be the fact that blood platelets begin to stick to the vessel walls, and constitute the nucleus around which the clot is formed. You may already be familiar with the anti-clotting drugs administered to patients who have suffered a heart attack or phlebitis. If the post-coronary patient is on some medication that makes his blood clot less easily and he begins to take niacin too, the dosage of the medication must be very carefully adjusted, because niacin will increase the drug’s effect.
This effect of niacin has been known for some time. As early as 1938, T. D. Spies found that the abnormal electrocardiograms of cardiac patients reverted to normal after these patients were given the vitamin
A man describes her use of niacin in the management of severe disorders of fat metabolism, in which large fatty deposits were visible in the skin. The photographs of these lesions, taken before and after treatment with niacin, are spectacular, and should be seen by all doubting Thomases. They make it easy to imagine the cholesterol deposits in one’s own arteries disappearing in a like manner.
The same volume also contains an article by Drs. Ernst Ost Stenson and Svend Stenson, entitled “Regression of Atherosclerosis during Nicotinic Acid Therapy: A Study in Man by Means of Repeated Arteriographies. They present graphs of pulsations in the arteries of the leg which clearly demonstrate that circulation is vastly improved by treatment with niacin.
Anyone concerned with hardening of the arteries should consider niacin therapy at the dose level of 3000 mg. to 4000 mg. daily. As we grow older, hardening of the arteries is a universal problem. If you are fortunate enough to avoid death from diseases secondary to the hardening of the arteries, such as thrombosis (heart attack), or cerebral thrombosis (stroke), then you will probably live long enough to develop the type of hardening of the brain arteries which leads to, or contributes to, senility.
Niacin, when taken in adequate doses, puts a negative electrical charge on the red blood cells which affects their oxygen-carrying ability. As we grow older, our red blood cells develop a tendency toward “sludging”: the red blood cells stick together and go through the blood vessels in clumps like grapes. This has been observed by studying the small blood vessels in the eye through a microscope. These sludged red blood cells obviously cannot travel through the finer arteries of the body, and thus do not deliver adequate blood supplies to their ultimate destination: the tissues of the body.
Also, since these blood cells touch each other, the surfaces of the red blood cells exposed to oxygen are reduced so gas exchange is no longer rapid and efficient. Once the sludging is broken up with niacin, the red blood cells’ full surface area is again exposed to the oxygen in the lungs, so that it can quickly and efficiently receive their full saturation of oxygen.
Not only does such breaking up of the sludge red blood cells help the circulation in the brain and therefore forestall senility in its early stages; it is also of obvious aid to people suffering from narrowing of the heart arteries, and in disorders where the blood vessels of the legs are narrowed and insufficient blood supply is the result.
If one could only get enough oxygen to the brain cells, depression could be altogether avoided. It is easy to see how niacin would enter into the picture of supplying more oxygen to the brain cells. When taking more than 250 mg. of niacin a day, your doctor should keep a check on your liver function tests. Use niacin capsules not tablets.