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B3 Niacin

What is Vitamin B-3 (Niacin)?

Niacin, also known as B-3, is a member of the B complex vitamins. Niacin is inherent in many food sources, such as chicken, turkey, salmon, fish, legumes and whole wheat, and is also available in supplement form.

What are the health benefits of Niacin?

Proper levels of niacin can decrease the risk of cardiac disease by lowering harmful cholesterol and triglycerides in the blood. Niacin can also lower cholesterol in individuals following a heart attack. Additionally, health providers sometimes use niacin as part of the treatment for coronary artery disease.

What is relationship between Niacin and Statin?

Because niacin increases the good cholesterol and reduces the harmful cholesterol in the blood, it can decrease the chance of cardiac disease. This is especially true when niacin is consumed in conjunction with statin. When statin alone is used as a treatment, the risk of cardiac disease decreases only by 30-40%. However, the combination of niacin and statin together can reduce the risk of cardiac disease by as much as 90%. Therefore, individuals with prior cardiac disease or at risk of developing cardiac disease should consult a physician about beginning a regimen of niacin and statin to promote their heart health.

Are there any precautions for the consumption of Niacin?

Occasionally, people who consume niacin can develop what is known as “niacin flush”. This is characterized by the sensation of tingling, warmth, itching and redness of the skin. Most often niacin flush affects the head and torso, but can occur anywhere on the body. These symptoms

are uncomfortable but not dangerous.

Rarely, more serious side effects can occur, to include profuse sweating, tachycardia (rapid heart rate), shortness of breath, syncope (fainting) and chills. If these side effects occur, a physician should be consulted immediately.

Can the side effects be prevented or reduced?

    Several precautions can minimize the risk of “niacin flush”, such as the following:

  • Take niacin supplements with food and not on an empty stomach.
  • Take an uncoated aspirin at 81 mg. strength right before meals.
  • Incorporate fiber and unsweetened apple sauce into your diet, along with fish oil capsules, as these have been proven useful to prevent niacin flush.
  • Stay away from alcohol and hot beverages just prior to and immediately after taking niacin.

Which type of Niacin should be taken?

Niacin is available as an over-the counter supplement, but some brands are not effective at lowering cholesterol and can damage the liver. Individuals can consult their physician for a reliable brand of over-the counter supplements. Better yet, niacin is available as a prescription under the name “Niaspan”. This prescription is in extended-release form and is easily absorbed by the body for maximum health benefits. It also has a low risk of inducing niacin flush.

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