Niacin Lowers Cholesterol Better than Prescription Drugs

A new study out shows vitamin B3, also known as niacin, lowers bad cholesterol more effectively than common statin drugs.

A new study out shows vitamin B3, also known as niacin, lowers bad cholesterol more effectively than a common statin drug, ezetimibe, sold as Zetia. Statins inhibit the absorption of cholesterol from the intestine, which then reduces the amount of LDL (bad cholesterol) in the blood stream. Since high cholesterol has been linked to cardiovascular disease, lowering LDL levels has been widely adopted as good preventive medicine. Noted in the Examiner, by Rachel Hillier Pratt

However a new study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, not only shows niacin contributing to a more significant drop in bad cholesterol (LDL), but also shows increases in the amount of good cholesterol (HDL). Niacin seems to reduce the plaque-like build up in veins and arteries when compared to ezetimibe. Most importantly, the study concluded “The incidence of major cardiovascular events was lower in the niacin group than in the ezetimibe group (1% vs. 5%, P=0.04 by the chi-square test).”

While vitamin B3 is a water soluble vitamin and does not accumulate in tissues causing overdosing, high doses of vitamin B3 can cause occasional discomfort known as flushing. According to the homesteading website, Doctoryourself, flushing causes “a pinkness about the cheeks, ears, neck, forearms and perhaps elsewhere. A slight niacin flush should end in about ten minutes or so. If you take too much niacin, the flush may be more pronounced and longer lasting.” Flushing is not life threatening. According to a study done by the National Institute of Health, simple aspirin supplementation can prevent flushing.

CNN Money weighed in on the effect this study will have on the drug, Zetia. While a commonly available supplement could cut into the profits of the pharmacutical, it isn’t likely doctors will switch overnight. Roger Blumentahl, director of Johns Hopkins Ciccarone Preventive Cardiology Center in Baltimore found the results significant yet “doubts, however, that the Arbiter 6 study alone will be enough to prompt changes in formal clinical guidelines, partly because the study primarily tracked artery thickness, not cardiovascular outcomes.”

In lieu of self medicating with high doses of niacin supplements, consider adding niacin rich foods to your diet. According to Northwestern University’s Fact Sheet, “Niacin is obtained from, liver, meat, peanuts and other nuts, and whole grains.” It can never be bad to stop snacking on junk. Think instead about how eating the “right” food can cure you.

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