How Niacin Affects Your Heart Health
For hundreds of years, people have used niacin therapy in the treatment of strokes, cholesterol and heart disease.
If you have recently discovered that your cholesterol levels are borderline or high, or that you are at risk for heart disease, then you could benefit from niacin therapy.
Make sure you talk to your doctor about commencing any new treatments especially if you are on other medication.
Niacin also known as vitamin B3 or nicotinic acid is one of the B-complex vitamins that are essential to health and well-being. The ability of our bodies to perform optimally will be affected by the presence of necessary vitamins.
Vitamin B3 is a water soluble vitamin that is not stored by our bodies and must be gotten from food on a daily basis.
It is essential to the function of our digestive pathways and the formation of enzymes responsible for the regulation of other metabolic activities.
There are several sources of vitamin B3 from foods and supplements. Foods rich in niacin include sardines, shrimp, tuna fish, nuts and seeds, poultry, lean meats, brown rice, sweet potatoes, Crimini mushrooms and many others.
Benefits of Niacin for Heart Health
Niacin is able to do this by lowering the quantity of bad cholesterol and reducing elevated triglyceride levels.
Improved cholesterol levels (Reduces bad Cholesterol, Increases Good Cholesterol):
Niacin has been used to treat the presence of an excessive amount of bad cholesterol over time. It has also been researched scientifically.
While there has been a marked improvement in the cholesterol levels when treating with niacin, there are still some controversies regarding the use of niacin as a medical option.
These controversies have arisen because of the side effects of niacin use with some scientists maintaining that the side effects compromise the safety of the supplement.
However, very few people actually experience any prolonged effects from using niacin except on the cholesterol level. All of the side effects are short term and will usually resolve on their own.
In the same vein, there is insufficient evidence to prove whether or not niacin actually produces effects that are harmful enough to consider it unsafe for use. In many cases, it has simply become a matter of opinion.
What is indisputable is that niacin therapy will positively affect cholesterol levels and in turn preserve heart health by reducing the clogging in the arteries.
The effect of niacin on cholesterol directly translates to a reduction in atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis is hardening of your artery walls due to buildup of plaque (Plaque is made up of cholesterol and other substances).
The reduction in bad cholesterol translates to a reduction in the amount of plaque in the walls of your blood vessels and increases their diameter.
This increased diameter will cause a reduction in the stress placed on the heart to get blood to tissues in the body.
Reduction in Blood Pressure:
As plaque buildup reduces and the diameter of your vessels widens, there is a consequent reduction in blood pressure.
One of the factors that affect blood pressure negatively is the force that is needed to circulate blood to all tissues. This force may be affected by formation of clots or narrowing of the blood vessels.
When the required force is reduced and the chances of blood clots and vessel blockages are also reduced, there is a consequent reduction in blood pressure.
Reduced Risk of Stroke:
As your blood pressure and blood vessel elasticity improves, there will be a concurrent reduction in the risks of strokes due to ischemia (tissue death).
In fact, several studies have found that people who use niacin as a supplement have a reduced risk of having a repeat stroke.
Production of coenzymes:
In addition to reducing bad cholesterol levels, niacin is also responsible for the production of coenzymes NAD and NADP. NAD and NADP are responsible for several pathways including the ones that convert carbohydrates, protein and fats to energy in the body.
If these pathways function optimally, there will be an increase in the quantity of energy available to the heart, other muscles and even other tissues in our bodies.
Dietary Reference Intake of Niacin
The dietary reference intake refers to the amount of niacin you will require daily for optimum function to be maintained.
The World Health organization recommends the following DRI;
- Infants, birth to 6 months: 2 mg (adequate intake)
- Infants, 7 months to 1 year: 4 mg (adequate intake)
- Children, 1 to 3 years: 6 mg (RDA)
- Children, 4 to 8 years: 8 mg (RDA)
- Children, 9 to 13 years: 12 mg (RDA)
- Boys, 14 to 18 years: 16 mg (RDA)
- Girls, 14 to 18 years: 14 mg (RDA)
- Men, 19 years and older: 16 mg (RDA)
- Women, 19 years and older: 14 mg (RDA)
- Pregnant women: 18 mg (RDA)
- Breastfeeding women: 17 mg (RDA)
For people who use niacin as a medication, the upper limit which should never be exceeded are as follows;
- 1-3 years: 10 milligrams
- 4-8 years: 15 milligrams
- 9-13 years: 20 milligrams
- 14-18 years: 30 milligrams
- 19+ years: 35 milligrams
- Pregnant or lactating women, 18 years and younger: 30 milligrams
- Pregnant or lactating women, 19 years and older: 35 milligrams
Always keep in mind that though you cannot get an excess of niacin from eating niacin rich foods, you may experience some side effects from using niacin medication.
For your own safety, always stick to the recommended dosage when using supplements/ medication.
Factors that determine the appropriate dosage
All possible dosages and drug forms may not be included here. Your dosage, drug form, and how often you take the drug will depend on:
- Your age
- The condition being treated
- How severe your condition is
- Other medical conditions you have
- How you react to the first dose
There are several other benefits of using niacin. They include;
- Management of Diabetes:
This vital vitamin may be helpful for treating diabetes because of the role it plays in balancing blood sugar levels.
It’s believed that vitamin B3 in the form of niacinamide can help to improve the efficiency of certain oral drug treatments that are used to control diabetes.
Most diabetic patients are able to effectively control blood glucose levels better with the help of this vital vitamin, and can also lower their risk of high blood cholesterol and heart disease which is commonly seen in patients with diabetes.
- Maintenance of Skin Health:
You can use niacin or niacinamide to treat acne, especially severe cases of acne that can be very inflamed and painful (called inflammatory acne vulgaris).
Vitamin B3 in the form of niacinamide is prescribed as a natural treatment for healthy skin and clearing acne when applied to the skin topically, and other people choose to take it or B vitamin complex supplements to help their symptoms.
Because it helps to reduce skin inflammation, flare ups, irritation, redness, and more, it is also used for treating skin conditions
- Enhances Proper Brain Function:
Studies have shown that this vital vitamin can help protect against Alzheimer’s disease and other age related brain disorders that result in cognitive decline.
Additionally, it has been correlated with a decreased risk for many problems regarding poor brain function or loss of age-related thinking skills, including memory loss, migraine headaches, chronic brain syndrome, depression, motion sickness, insomnia, and even alcohol dependence
Niacin or niacinamide is also used for treating and preventing schizophrenia and hallucinations.
- Joint Mobility and Treatment of Arthritis:
Vitamin B3 in the form of niacinamide can be effective in increasing joint mobility. Studies correlate vital vitamin intake with lower levels of joint pain, enhanced muscle strength, and fewer symptoms associated with muscle or joint fatigue.
Prescribed high doses of niacinamide can be used to improve flexibility and reduce swelling, allowing some people who take niacinamide to be able to cut down on standard painkillers or medications for arthritis.
As a treatment for osteoarthritis or bone and joint pain, it is normally prescribed in high doses for its anti-inflammatory effects. Reducing inflammation helps to lower the occurrence of symptoms of arthritis and to rebuild the joint cartilage that is crucial to mobility and strength.
- Treatment of Pellagra, a Disease Caused by Low B vitamin Levels:
Deficiency of this vital vitamin is attributed to causing the disease called pellagra, which is usually seen in poverty stricken areas or in those with alcoholism. Pellagra symptoms include weak muscles, digestive problems, skin inflammation and irritation.
The common treatment for pellagra is to prescribe high levels of the type of vitamin B3 called nicotinamide, which has the same vitamin function as niacin but is slightly different in terms of absorption and side effects.
- Prevents Impotence and Erectile Dysfunction:
Impotence, also called erectile dysfunction, is the inability of a man to sustain an erection. This can interfere with the ability to have satisfying sexual intercourse and may be partially due to low blood flow and bad circulation, in addition to other factors like stress, fatigue, and illness.
Supplementing with Vitamin B3 niacin can help to decrease impotence because it acts as a vasodilator that improves blood flow to your genital region.
In recent times, several studies have been carried out on the effectiveness of niacin as a treatment for heart disease. The goals of these studies have been to determine whether or not the risk associated with using niacin is worth it.
Some studies have determined that the use of niacin has been linked to as many as 1 in 200 deaths. These studies determined that the use of niacin in dosages above what was recommended could be a contributing factor to the death of people with heart disease.
Side Effects of using Niacin for Heart Health
However, because of the unusual range of possible side effects experienced when using niacin, doctors recommend that niacin should be taken carefully with instructions from your health care provider and monitoring you on any sort of high dosage.
Niacin and niacinamide are likely safe when taken by mouth. A common side effect of it is the flushing reaction. This might cause burning, tingling, itching and redness of the face, arms, and chest as well as headaches.
Starting with small doses of this vital vitamin and taking 325 mg of aspirin before each dose of niacin will help to reduce the flushing reaction.
Usually this reaction goes away as the body gets used to the medication. Alcohol can make the flushing reaction worse, avoid large amount of alcohol while taking it.
Other minor side effects of this vital vitamin and niacinamide are stomach upset, intestinal gas, dizziness, pain in the mouth.
When doses of over 3 grams per day are taken, more serious side effects can occur. These include liver problems, gout, ulcers of the digestive tract, loss of vision and irregular heartbeat.
Similar side effects can happen with large doses of niacinamide
In conclusion, niacin can prove beneficial to the treatment of several heart conditions and may lead to an increase in the level of good cholesterol while decreasing bad cholesterol.
Talk to your physician about niacin therapy and find out if it would be an appropriate alternative for your condition.