Niacin is a member of the B vitamin family and has been the subject of study for its positive effects on the cardiovascular system. Also known as nicotinic acid or Vitamin B3, it is widely found in turkey, red meat, beans and whole grains. A healthy diet is expected to be a good source of up to 16 mg of niacin from natural sources. Apart from playing an important role in cardiovascular health, the vitamin is also an important component in certain biological processes like energy production and hormone synthesis.
Niacin and Heart Health in Modern Medicine
Today, numerous cardiology specialists rely on Vitamin B3 as one of the essential components of a management program for cardiovascular problems, specifically in the reversal of existing heart disease. Studies on the vitamin through the decades have shown that the vitamin is currenctly among the best treatments for heart disease and related studies are showing medical practitioners the proper techniques to maximize positive results and reduce the side effects.
Benefits of Niacin for Heart Health
The main benefits derived from the use of this vitamin include:
Increase the density of HDL cholesterol
High-density lipoprotein is an essential blood marker that is needed in high levels in order to promote normal heart health. Nicotinic acid has been shown to increase the density of HDL by up to 35%, which is significant because this lipoprotein helps pull LDL and triglycerides, which are danger indicators, out of the bloodstream.
Decrease LDL levels
LDL is one of the causes of heart disease and Vitamin B3 has been found to be the most effect corrective agent for this type of lipoprotein. The vitamin blocks the release of fatty acids from fat cells so that fewer fatty acids are released in the bloodstream to be processed by the liver.
Reduces heart attack risk by 27%.
As reported by the Coronary Drug Project, nicotinic acid has been shown to dramatically reduce a person’s risk for heart attacks and strokes with supplementation. More than 1,000 survivors of heart attacks were given Vitamin B3 supplementation at 3,000 mg for six years and it was shown that the group’s incidence of non-fatal heart attacks went down by 27%. The incidence of strokes also decreased by 26%.
Similar results were shown by the HDL-Atherosclerosis Treatment Study where 160 study subjects were given a Vitamin B3 and simvastatin combo. This group exhibited a 90% reduction in MI-related deaths within 3 years. Both studies reinforce the conclusion that niacin is effective when used alone and becomes even more effective at combating heart-related disease and the risk of fatal attacks when used with other medications.
Decreases triglyceride levels by 30%
Triglycerides, like cholesterol, can accumulate in the blood vessels and increase the risk for heart disease. Lower levels of triglycerides are also essential for keeping the heart healthy. Doctors may prescribe mega-doses of the vitamin from 500 mg to as high as 2,000 mg to reduce triglyceride levels.
Impressive Safety Record with Proper Use
Unlike other medications, niacin is relatively safer as long as it is used properly. Significant side effects have only been seen in long-term exposure of the liver to the vitamin. Today, Vitamin B3 comes in formulations designed to avoid this problem. Patients have the option to take immediate-release or crystalline niacin which is the form used for over-the-counter niacin supplements, or extended-release niacin preparations, which does not act as a slow-release preparation. With extended-release formulations, the intensity of hot flushes is significantly lower than those produced by niacin supplements in previous years.
Coupled with the appropriate diet and exercise, specifically a low-fat, low-sugar diet and an average of 150 minutes of targeted activity during the week, doctors are confident that supplementation with niacin can go a long way in reducing heart attacks and strokes in at-risk individuals.