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Niacin Effects Can Lower Your Cholesterol

Niacin Effects Are Many...and Lowering Cholesterol Is One of Them


Updated May 15, 2014

Studies have consistently proven that niacin effects can influence all aspects of your lipid profile -- especially your "good" cholesterol -- among its other healthy benefits. Also known as vitamin B3, niacin is available as an over-the-counter supplement and as a prescription medication. Many types of niacin are on the market. Whereas one form of niacin has been proven effective in lowering cholesterol, it is still up in the air as to whether or not the other forms of niacin are equally effective. This article will help you understand how niacin helps your heart health and the different forms of niacin available.

1. What Is Niacin and How Does It Work?

Niacin has gained a lot of popularity lately because of its ability to lower LDL cholesterol, and raise HDL, or "good," cholesterol at the same time. In fact, niacin's claim to fame is it's ability to raise HDL cholesterol. But what is this vitamin and how does it lower cholesterol? It comes in a few forms and is widely available. It's no wonder that this vitamin is a commonly prescribed and commonly purchased supplement.

2. Are All Niacin Types Equal In Their Ability to Lower Cholesterol?

Although niacin is well-known for its cholesterol-lowering abilities, shopping for it can be quite confusing. The word "niacin" is actually a blanket term that covers three slightly different chemicals: nicotinic acid, nicotinamide, and inositol hexaniacinate. While one of these forms of niacin is widely known for lowering cholesterol, the two other forms of niacin do not have a lot of research behind them to back up their cholesterol-lowering ability. Reading the labels on bottles and finding the form of niacn that is most effective can help you to optimize your cholesterol-lowering efforts.

3. Immediate Vs. Sustained Release Niacin: Which Is Better?

In addition to having different forms of niacin on the market, one form of niacin -- nicotinic acid -- comes in a variety of formulations. Extended release, immediate release, sustained release...many formulations of nicotinic acid on the market, but what do they mean in terms of their effectiveness in lowering your cholesterol as well as reducing the side effects associated with it? Most of these formulations are available over the counter. While some of them may reduce the side effects associated with niacin, they may deliver other undesirable, but rare, side effects.

4. Side Effects of Niacin - What to Expect and How to Avoid Them

Flushing, hot flashes, nausea...these are some of the few side effects associated with niacin - especially nicotinic acid. The side effects that niacin elicits usually strike without warning, and range between very mild to severe. In some cases, these side effects can be so bothersome that some people may stop taking their niacin. The good news is that there are ways you can reduce the side effects you experience when you first begin taking niacin. Additionally, these side effects typically decrease over time.

5. Can You Take Niacin With Other Cholesterol Lowering Medications?

Niacin lowers cholesterol, so adding niacin to your other cholesterol-lowering medications means even lower cholesterol levels, right? Probably. But it may lead to some other, undesirable side effects, too. Therefore, you should not add niacin to your other cholesterol-lowering medications - or any other medications - unless make sure that it is OK with your healthcare provider. Niacin has the ability to interact with other medications and can even worsen certain medical conditions. By discussing your desire to add on niacin to your cholesterol-lowering regimen, you can avoid other potential health problems down the road.

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