Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Niacin Lacks Cool Factor

People have been sending me this article from today's New York Times. Thank you. I post it hoping it continues to make the rounds. It's good stuff.

An Old Cholesterol Remedy Is New Again

The old remedy is niacin, a B vitamin. Dr. Davis over on the Heart Scan Blog extols niacin's virtues. For its ability to increase HDL (High Density Lipoprotein, the good cholesterol), it's worth a try. Flushing is the side effect mostly likely to result in noncompliance.

Note: The form of niacin found in supplements (nicotinamide) is not the form of the vitamin found to benefit lipid levels (nicotinic acid). Also, the amount of niacin provided by either a healthful diet (about 20 mg/day) or a B vitamin supplement (about 50 mg/pill) fall well short of the amount needed to boost HDL (usually 1000 to 3000 mg/day = 1 to 3 grams/day). Even though nicotinic acid is not foreign to the body, at these gram doses I think of it more as a drug than a supplement.

High dose supplementation with nicotinic acid really shouldn't be pursued without a doctor's oversight. You'll want to have your liver enzymes monitored (high dose niacin can be harmful to the liver). And you'll want to have your blood glucose checked (high dose niacin can impair glucose tolerance). If you have diabetes, you may need an adjustment in your meds.

Still, it's an inexpensive, natural, and effective therapy.

This quote from the article stood out for me:
"Here you have a drug that was about as effective as the early statins, and it just never caught on," said Dr. B. Greg Brown, professor of medicine at the University of Washington in Seattle. "It’s a mystery to me. But if you’re a drug company, I guess you can’t make money on a vitamin."

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