Niacin and Cardiovascular Disease
A few years ago it became a hypothesis that taking Niacin, as a dietary supplement, could help to raise your HDL (High Density Lipoprotein- the good cholesterol), essentially boosting your bodies own defenses to protect itself from cardiac damage. So, a HUGE study from the NIH (National Institute of Health) was actually underway to study the use of extended-release Niacin, but suddenly stopped due to little, if any improvement, and actually some risks...which is pretty shocking news, seeing as many HCP's suggested the Niacin supplement to cardiac patients.
What is Niacin?
Niacin is also known as Vitamin B3, something we ingest probably every day of our lives! Niacin works by blocking the breakdown of fats in adipose (fatty) tissues,if these fats were to breakdown, VLDLP (VERY low density lipoproteins) are created in the liver, which are BAD. But blocking this breakdown, we have less free fatty acids flowing in our blood, which leads to less VLDLP created in the liver, and higher amounts of HDL. Due to this, the hypothesis was that Niacin protected your heart, as HDL levels increase....seems OK, right?
What was the Study?
It was a large study including 3,400 patients with high risk for heart attacks and strokes, that were treated with high dose extended release niacin (AKA Niaspan) to off-set their current higher levels of LDL's and hopefully increase HDL's, thus decreasing their risk of heart attack and stroke. The problem is that the study had to be stopped due to a found increase of stroke in the study patients; 28 of the patients that got the study drug (of 1,718 patients) had strokes versus 12 of the 1,696 patients that got a placebo. Due to these findings, the NIH stopped the study 18 months early, despite some of the patients receiving the study drug had some positive responses.
What does this mean to me?
Well, I wouldn't go run out to take Niacin to help with elevated LDL levels BUT if your HCP has put you on Niaspan (or high dose Niacin) I wouldn't encourage you to stop without discussing with them first. Plenty of new drugs are constantly being created and trialled as heart disease kills over 800,000 Americans each year, and I am sure that there will be a drug soon that can help to increase our HDL levels without creating other risks to our bodies. But, until that point, eat healthy, get exercise, relax (try T'ai Chi or yoga!), and talk to your HCP about what your options are.
Yours in Good Health