Niacin or nicotinic acid or B3 is a water-soluble vitamin belonging to the Vitamin B group. It improves all lipoproteins when given in doses much above the required dietary dosage. It helps to lower total cholesterol, bad LDL cholesterol, and triglyceride levels and raises the good HDL cholesterol levels.
Niacin is inexpensive and widely available over the counter without a prescription. However, it must not be used without a physician’s monitoring because of the potential side effects.
VERY IMPORTANT TIP: Do NOT USE Niacin until you have found out all about its effectiveness, SIDE EFFECTS, and risks.
Like other B vitamins, Niacin is used for metabolism of fat and for energy synthesis. It makes enzymes that convert carbohydrate into energy. Niacin regulates how much sugar or glucose is there in the blood. It is also used in the making of fatty acids, for normal appetite, healthy glowing skin, and nerves. But more than all this, it is taken because of the effect it has on LDL and HDL cholesterol and triglycerides. It reduces LDL cholesterol levels by 10 to 20%, triglycerides by 20 to 50% and raises HDL cholesterol by 15 to 35%. However, to get this result, the amount of niacin intake should be at least 3 grams, whereas the dietary supplements contain only 15-20 mg of niacin.
At high doses, niacin has very serious side effects. Flushing or hot flashes due to the widening of blood vessels are the most common one. They are countered by taking aspirin prior to taking the niacin medication. Itching, rashes, hives, and dizziness often accompany the flushing. Those on high blood pressure medication may often find their effect to be more when niacin is taken along with the blood pressure medication. Therefore, it is important to set up a blood pressure monitoring system to see that everything is under control and the blood pressure does not suddenly drop down below normal levels. Gastrointestinal problems also spurt up with intake of heavy doses of niacin. Nausea, indigestion, diarrhea, vomiting, and activation of peptic ulcers are the common complaints.
Three other major problems include gout, liver problems, and blood sugar. Risk of these diseases is directly proportional to the intake of niacin. If the person is already diabetic, then niacin should be avoided at all costs.
All patients taking niacin to lower serum cholesterol should be closely monitored to avoid complications from the medication. Self – medication with nicotinic acid should definitely be avoided as it may lead to toxicity if not under the supervision of a doctor. Other forms of niacin such as niacinamide or inositol hexaniacinate, marketed as no-flush niacin, should not be taken even though they do not produce the side effects, as they have no effect on cholesterol levels.
A recent study has also shown that that niacin in combination with statin drugs does not necessarily translate into improved benefits for carotid artery disease. If such is the case, then should one opt for increased dosage of niacin and risk the side effects?
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