Niacin, which is a little different from niacinamide, has been used to treat cholesterol problems since the 1950s. It’s used to reduce levels of LDL (bad) cholesterol and triglycerides (fat). These get into your bloodstream and clog the arteries, which causes a lot of health problems.
There are eight B vitamins in all. One of these is vitamin B3, also known as niacin (nicotinic acid). There are two other forms of vitamin B3. They are niacinamide (nicotinamide) and inositol hexanicotinate.
Despite their names they do have completely different effects compared to niacin and they can’t be used to treat the same conditions. Inositol hexanicotinate is the slowest release form of vitamin B3 and, as such, it has very little to no effect on cholesterol.
All of the B vitamins have the same general effects; all of them are used by the body to convert the carbohydrates of food into the glucose that fuels everything you do. The B vitamins, also known collectively as the B-complex vitamins, are also used to help the body process and make use of fats and proteins.
Your body needs B-complex vitamins to keep your liver, skin, hair and eyes healthy. It also helps keep your nervous system working properly. Niacin is also used in the production of some hormones related to sex and stress. These hormones are primarily produced in the adrenal glands but are also produced in other areas of the body.
Niacin is also used to improve circulation, and it has been shown to help suppress inflammation. There are many benefits to suppressing inflammation. Keeping you healthy and helping you to lose weight are just two of the best.
Niacin Acid Lowers Levels of LDL
Niacin/Nicotinic acid has also been shown to improve all lipoproteins when you take a dose that exceeds the required amount of niacin you need. Nicotinic acid can be used to reduce total cholesterol levels, the levels of LDL “bad” cholesterol, along with the levels of triglycerides. One advantage that niacin has is that it also raises the levels of HDL “good” cholesterol.
There are two main types of nicotinic acid. These are immediate release and timed release. While most experts are in agreement that the best kind of nicotinic acid is the immediate release form, you should still consider talking to your doctor about which one would be the best choice for you.
Nicotinic acid is typically inexpensive, and you should have no problem finding it even without a prescription, but you should only ever use it to lower your cholesterol with the help and guidance of a trained physician. This is because of the potential side effects of niacin.
It’s also important that you avoid taking nicotinamide. This is one of the forms of niacin, but it has absolutely no effect on cholesterol. As such you should never use it instead of nicotinic acid for cholesterol.
Anyone taking nicotinic acid to reduce serum cholesterol should have their doctor keep an eye on them to avoid any complications that can arise as a result of taking niacin. You should never self-medicate niacin without the help of a doctor, as you could miss a serious side effect and not realize that it’s making you worse.
When patients initially start taking nicotinic acid, they are given small doses that gradually get larger over time. The highest dose you’re likely to find yourself taking is between 1.5 – 3 grams of niacin a day, which is well above the amount of niacin that you would find in a multivitamin.
Nicotinic acid can be used to reduce levels of LDL cholesterol by up to 20%, reduce triglyceride levels by up to 50% and raise HDL cholesterol levels by up to 35%.
The most common and troublesome side effect of taking niacin is what is known as the niacin flush. It could also present as a hot flash, and it is caused by the vasodilation effect of niacin; which means niacin expands the blood vessels.
People will build up a tolerance to flushing, and it can also be diminished by taking niacin with or after a meal or alongside aspirin or another similar medication. Always check with your doctor before taking aspirin for niacin flush though as the aspirin could cause side effects of its own.
Niacin can also increase the effectiveness of blood pressure medication, which is another reason you need to talk to your doctor about it. You should make use of a blood pressure monitoring system if you’re on medication for your high blood pressure and are going to start a niacin regimen.
Nicotinic acid has also been known to cause some gastrointestinal problems including nausea, indigestion, gas, vomiting, diarrhea, and peptic ulcer activation.