Monday, April 1, 2024

Excess Use of Niacin Increases Heart Disease and Stroke Risk

While niacin (vitamin B3) has traditionally been used to lower cholesterol and was thought to benefit heart health, recent research suggests a surprising downside to high-dose niacin intake. Here's a breakdown of the key points:

  • Niacin and Cholesterol: Niacin demonstrably reduces "bad" LDL cholesterol and can raise "good" HDL cholesterol, making it a past favorite for heart health management.

  • The Downside of High-Dose Niacin: Studies now link excessive niacin intake with an increased risk of cardiovascular problems like heart attack and stroke. This risk seems to be associated with a byproduct of niacin metabolism called 4PY, which may trigger inflammation in blood vessels, damaging them and accelerating plaque buildup (atherosclerosis).

  • Shifting Approach: Due to these findings, high-dose niacin is no longer the preferred treatment for cholesterol control. Statin medications offer a safer and more effective alternative.

  • Recommended Intake: The daily recommended amount of niacin (RDA) is relatively low (14-18mg for adults). A balanced diet rich in niacin sources like meat, poultry, fish, legumes, nuts, and fortified cereals can typically meet these daily needs.

  • Who Might Still Need Supplements: While not recommended for general heart health, niacin supplementation might be prescribed in specific cases. A doctor may consider it for individuals with severe dyslipidemia unresponsive to statins or those with specific genetic conditions.

  • Important Considerations: Consult your doctor before taking niacin supplements, especially if you have pre-existing health concerns. Niacin supplements can cause side effects like flushing, itching, and nausea. Discussing potential risks and side effects with your doctor is crucial before starting any supplementation.

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