Part two of my series on vitamin B3 (a.k.a. niacin) hones in on the health benefits that it exerts in our bodies. This goes beyond its many roles, but actually describes the disease-fighting nature of the vitamin. It has much to do with the flow of blood in the body, as we’ll see here.
1. Hyperlipidemia, Coronary Heart Disease: “Hyperlipidemia” means high cholesterol and triglycerides. Vitamin B3 was used as early as 1955 to treat patients with high cholesterol. The nutrient, at doses of 1,000 to 4,000 milligrams (mg) a day, lowered triglycerides by 20% to 50%, and LDL (bad) cholesterol levels by 10% to 25%, while increasing HDL (good) cholesterol by 10% to 30%.
A major study in the 1960s and 70s tracked over 8,300 men aged 30 to 64 who’d had a heart attack in the past six years. Niacin, at three grams a day, reduced cholesterol by an average of 10%, triglycerides by 26%, another heart attack by 27%, and stroke by 26%. In another study, niacin was combined with a statin (i.e. a cholesterol-lowering drug) and it helped reduce LDL levels by a whopping 42% and raise HDL levels by 26%. Patients here also had a reduced number of heart attacks, strokes, and death.
Finally, a 2004 study examined 167 patients with heart disease, who had low HDL levels. One gram of niacin a day added to statin treatment increased HDL levels by 21%, and improved their hardened arteries as well.
2. Raynaud’s Disease, Intermittent Claudication: For this, the preparation of niacin is called “inositol hexaniacinate”, as it contains both nicotinic acid and inositol. Most studies show that this is an effective treatment in the aforementioned two conditions. Raynaud’s causes poor blood flow in fingers, toes, ears, nose, nipples or knees. Pain and skin discoloration ensue. Claudication is a symptom of blocked arteries, causing leg pain during exercise.
A good study on 23 Raynaud’s patients treated with four grams a day found that they had significantly improved symptoms.
In a three-month study of 100 patients with intermittent claudication, those getting four grams a day of inositol hexaniacinate showed major improvement in being able to walk pain-free.
3. Type 1 Diabetes: Many quality studies have tried to see if niacin can prevent or delay this condition. The results are mixed. Good news came out of two studies that showed niacinamide alone, or with vitamin E, could prolong the “honeymoon period”” in newly diagnosed type 1 diabetes. Thus, it delays it for some time.
And there you have the three-pronged disease-fighting nature of niacin.
Read my previous article in this series, This Vitamin Deficiency Could Be Harming Your Body.