by Maylin Rodriguez-Paez, RN
Niacin is one of the best kept secrets in the field of medicine, and we’d like to help put an end to that as soon as we possibly can.
Why? Because higher doses of niacin have been shown to maintain blood lipids better than conventional drugs and even help prevent heart attacks.
Below, we’ll explain why niacin is just about one of the best supplements you can take for your heart.
Niacin Increases HDL and Changes LDL Particle SizeNiacin is best known for its ability to increase HDL, a lipoprotein that carries excess cholesterol out of arteries. Having healthy HDL levels is very important for optimal heart health.
In research studies, mean doses of 2.25 grams have been shown to increase HDL by as much as 35%.1 This is quite impressive since most traditional drugs aren’t as effective in raising HDL levels.
Niacin also favorably changes the size of LDL particles. LDL is a lipoprotein that carries cholesterol to the heart and arteries. These particles come in different sizes and each carry a different risk for heart disease.
Larger more buoyant LDL particles are more favorable than smaller particles, which can easily penetrate arterial walls and contribute to plaque. Niacin supports the production of large buoyant LDL particles.2 Niacin also lowers triglycerides. In one study, 1 gram of niacin taken three times a day reduced levels by an average of 26%.3
Niacin Prevents Heart AttacksIn a study called the Coronary Drug Project, taking niacin was found to reduce the incidence of non-fatal heart attacks and strokes by 27% and 26% respectively.3, 4 The participants studied were heart attack survivors.
These results make sense when you take into account that niacin works in several ways to help you maintain a healthy cardiovascular system.
Now ask yourself this: Is there any drug on the market that does all of the things we’ve mentioned above?
Niacin PrecautionsIs niacin therapy right for you? We can’t determine that but your doctor can. Higher doses may be appropriate for people with lipid disorders or heart disease.
Are higher doses of niacin dangerous? If taken properly, they shouldn’t be … but it’s certainly not risk free. Again, ask your doctor!
One of the potential side effects of therapy is increased liver enzymes (especially the slow-release preparations). Make sure you monitor your liver function with your doctor.
Higher doses may cause an uncomfortable reaction called the niacin flush. A person may experience itching, redness, and hot flashes. Some describe it like “being on fire.”
Although the niacin flush may seem like a horrible allergic reaction, it really isn’t. It’s caused when your blood vessels dilate and send blood rushing to the surface of your skin.
This reaction is actually the main reason people stop niacin therapy, and we’d rather not have it happen to you.
How to Avoid the “Niacin Flush”Here are a couple of tips to prevent the niacin flush from happening:
- Take a full glass of water with your dose and avoid spicy foods.
- Start therapy with lower doses of niacin (250 mg) and work your way up after a period of several weeks to higher doses. This helps your body get used to the niacin.
- Take quercetin several hours before taking the niacin or take a baby aspirin prior to use. Both of them can help to minimize the flush.
What About You?Has niacin therapy ever worked for you? What did you think of niacin before reading this post? Please share your thoughts in the comments!
- J Am Coll Cardiol. 2000 Mar.;35(3):640-646.
- Curr Vasc Pharmacol. 2010 Nov.;8(6):820-830.
- J Am Coll Cardiol. 1986;8(6):1245-1255.
- J. Cardiovasc Pharmacol Ther. 2010 Jun.;15(2):158-166.