Niacin is a B3 vitamin that may be found in meats, milk, seeds, wheat, leafy greens and other vegetables. However, many health experts agree that obtaining enough niacin through diet alone may be difficult when attempting to lower cholesterol levels. The great news is that studies show niacin has been used successfully over the years for just that purpose in over-the-counter supplemental form.

Years of Research

In my early thirties, I loathed the idea of my doctor’s recommended statin drug regimen for high cholesterol. Seeing the drug scribbled on his prescription pad at my young age sent me headlong into years worth of research into natural effective alternatives. On that day, I also committed to monitoring my bloodwork regularly, absolutely essential to knowing if any chosen remedy is effective. This is how I stumbled across niacin, as well as many other amazing natural supplements and vitamins that I will cover extensively in future articles.

My Blood Test Results

Although results will vary depending on the individual, my blood test results revealed a vast reduction in LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol) of 36% from 113 to 72 after taking 500 mg of niacin daily for one year. This is well below the recommended maximum level of 99 for my age group. My HDL cholesterol (good cholesterol) increased 22% from from 53 to 68. The goal for my HDL level is to be above 40.

How Niacin Reduces Plaque & Prevents Heart Disease

I have read many complicated descriptions of how LDL and HDL work, but one of the best explanations I’ve ever heard was put in simple terms by world renowned cardiologist, Dr. Oz, host of his own ABC daytime talk show, The Doctor Oz Show. He has also been a frequent guest of Oprah Winfrey, as one of several cardiologists that treated President Bill Clinton and co-author of the easy-to-read, You: The Owner’s Manual.

Dr. Oz explains that homocysteine (a by-product of protein) and high blood pressure gouges holes in our arterial walls. The holes are then filled with sticky LDL particulates that build until they starve and die from outgrowing the blood supply. This sends an electrical charge that attracts plaque in the form of inflammation until the artery clots entirely, leading to heart attack or heart failure. Additonally, if a piece of the arterial wall flakes off due to excessive gouging and damage, it may flow into the bloodstream and up to the brain, causing a stroke.

On the other hand, if blood pressure and homocysteine levels are kept in check and HDL levels are high, this scenerio may be prevented all together. High levels of HDL swooshes through our arteries and removes excess LDL, preventing a build-up of plaque. This is why the goal is to lower LDL and raise HDL. In worldwide studies, niacin has been shown to do both. It has even been shown to reverse pre-existing plaque build-up, which is key in preventing hardening of the arteries or atherosclerosis.

Niacin vs. Statins

According to numerous studies and health experts:

Niacin

  • Lowers LDL (Bad Cholesterol)
  • Raises HDL (Good Cholesterol)
  • Lowers Triglycerides
  • Lowers Blood Pressure
  • No Damaging Side Effects
  • Does Not Deplete COQ10
  • Costs Approx $6 for 6 Months Worth
  • Causes Temporary Flushing

Statins

  • Lower LDL
  • Do Not Raise HDL
  • May Modestly Lower Triglycerides
  • Do Not Lower Blood Pressure
  • Possible Side Effects Include Liver, Muscle & Nerve Damage
  • Deplete COQ10
  • Cost Approx $600 for 6 Months Worth of Name Brands
  • No Flushing

Nicotinic Acid, Niacinamide & the “Niacin Flush”

The two types of niacin typically discussed are nicotinic acid and niacinamide. Nicotonic acid is the supplement known to reduce cholesterol that may also produce a flush or warm tingly feeling on the skin temporarily after ingesting. However, if taken daily (without missing a dose) and with food, most or all of the flush feeling is diminished. Niacinamide or “flush-free niacin” does not produce a flush, but has shown to be ineffective in reducing LDL and/or raising HDL. When testing niacinamide myself, I found that my LDL increasd 45%, so I returned quickly to nicotinic acid and have been watching my LDL drop back down to healthy levels ever since.

Blood Pressure

The national median blood pressure is approximately 129/86. My daily niacin regimen effectively decreased my blood pressure from 130/90 in 2005 to 116/75 in 2006. The ideal blood pressure is approximately 115/76, so I was very pleased with the results. Many articles report blood pressure reductions from niacin usage.

Where to Buy Niacin

You may buy niacin over-the-counter. However, I have found that purchasing on-line allows for more comparative shopping and ultimately, a lower price. I’ve also found more vitmains and supplements on-line made here in the USA. I personally find this more reassuring in terms of testing and contents.

Importance of Regular Blood Testing & Physician Advice

Prior to any supplemental regimen, a blood test should be obtained to determine your current cholesterol levels. Continuing testing regularly as instructed by your physician is the only way to know if a vitamin or supplement is working for you. While this article is based on my direct blood test results and extensive research, it is editorial in content and you should always consult your physician prior to beginning any vitamin and supplement regimen. Some supplements are known to interact with certain medications.

More Articles by Shannon Sanford on Related Topics

  • Fish Oil Reduces Triglycerides and Inflammation
  • Folic Acid B6 and B12

Book References

Michael F. Roizen, M.D. & Mehement C. Oz, M.D., published 2005, You: The Owner’s Manual, New York, NY, Harper Collins Publishers