Do you have cholesterol problems? If yes, you’ve probably heard about the B vitamin niacin. You’ve heard this for good reason: Several studies do indeed show that niacin (also called vitamin B3) can raise HDL (good cholesterol) levels by as much as 35% and lower LDL (bad cholesterol) by as much as 25%. Niacin can also lower triglycerides by as much as 50%. Niacin may also lower total cholesterol as well. These facts rank niacin among the top natural alternatives for those with cholesterol problems. There is however a problem with niacin that you need to know about. You see, there is more than one type of niacin and not all types help cholesterol levels.
Types of Niacin
There are basically 3 different types of niacin.
1. Niacin (also called nicotinic acid)
2. Niacinamide (also called nicotinamide)
I’ve listed the types like this so you can make sense of them. Niacin can be confusing because the names sound alike.
Of these 3 types of niacin, it is the first type listed – niacin (also called nicotinic acid) – that has most of the published peer reviewed evidence for helping cholesterol.
One well known side effect of niacin is a flushing of the skin. Niacinamide (the 2nd type listed above) does not cause this side effect and that’s why it may be found in some no flush niacin supplements.
But, Niacinamide does not lower cholesterol either.
Check your niacin supplement to see what type of niacin it contains.
The third type of niacin, called hexaniacinate (also called inositol hexaniacinate) might help cholesterol but the proof is less than for regular niacin. As such, it’s probably best to stick to regular niacin (nicotinic acid) for cholesterol problems.
Niacin and Cholesterol: Quick Reference
|Niacin (also called Nicotinic Acid||Lowers LDL, raises HDL, lowers total cholesterol, lowers triglycerides|
|Niacinamide (also called Nicotinamide)||Does not lower cholesterol|
|Hexaniacinate (also called inositol hexaniacinate)||Less proof it helps cholesterol|
Niacin Side Effects
Before you take niacin you need to know that taking too much can cause some very serious side effects including:
- Liver damage
- Low blood pressure
- Rapid heart rate
- Alter blood sugar levels
These are just a few of the side effects of taking too much niacin.
Being overweight can raise cholesterol levels as well as cause type II diabetes. Diabetics who take niacin supplements for cholesterol may make their diabetes worse.
Niacin supplements may also interact with other medications you take.
How Much Niacin Works?
It’s very important that you use caution with niacin to avoid bad side effects and I strongly urge you to speak to your doctor before taking niacin on your own. That said, to help you compare what is in your niacin supplements, research finds that about 1 gram (1000 mg) of niacin can help.
If you have health insurance you may be able to get prescription niacin (called Nispan). Some people like this option because it may be cheaper than niacin supplements. Also see my review of citrus bergamot and cholesterol.
What do you think?