Niacin Benefits: Lowering Cholesterol The Natural Way
Niacin, otherwise known as vitamin B3 or nicotinic acid - is involved in at least 40 different chemical reactions in the body and niacin benefits us most famously by lowering cholesterol.
Over 50 years ago, Canadian pathologist Rudolf Altschul discovered that nicotinamide significantly lowered cholesterol levels.
Today, we know that it supports cardiovascular health in a myriad of ways, such as:
Decreasing lipoprotein A levels (associated with greater risk of heart attack)
Increasing HDL cholesterol (the good kind!)
- Preventing hardening of the arteries.
In high doses, it’s considered a drug-like, ‘miracle’ vitamin, offering exciting benefits for those at risk of, or being treated for, heart disease.
A recent study proves it not only lowers LDL cholesterol levels but also boosts HDL cholesterol levels which makes it a superior alternative to cholesterol lowering drugs that tend to lower both types of cholesterol rather than just the “bad” ones.
However, like these other drugs, it comes with a side-effect, skin flushing!
While The Niacin Flush may sound like a dance craze that swept the nation in the 1920’s it is actually a hot, prickly sensation, especially in the face and arms, often reported after taking niacin.
This is due to receptors in the skin being ‘switched on’, capillaries opening up and blood rushing to the surface. This effect is harmless and short-lived - though some people find it unpleasant.
Niacin plays an essential role in energy production and nutrient synthesis. It may also play a role in preventing Type 1 Diabetes and some cancers.
You can get the many niacin benefits by eating niacin-rich foods such as poultry, beef, fish and fortified cereal, brewer’s yeast, rice bran, wheat, seeds, pulses and some vegetables.
Or by simply taking a supplement that includes niacin or nicotinamide, like our very own Athletic Greens.
Being a water-soluble vitamin that is not stored in the body, niacin requires regular replenishment.
Besides the treatment and prevention of heart disease, niacin benefits our cellular energy production, DNA repair, helps in the treatment of pellagra (clinical niacin deficiency) and protects the brain.
How Niacin Benefits Work For Our Bodies
Now that we know a little more about niacin and where we can find it, it’s time to explore the niacin benefits to our health. What do we require it for on a daily basis?
✔ You need niacin to power your cells!
Like other B-vitamins, niacin acts as the raw material for enzymes and coenzymes that turn food into energy. Niacin becomes nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD), an important coenzyme that keeps the cogs in your energy wheels spinning. Conditions associated with impaired cellular energy production - like Huntington’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and perhaps even chronic fatigue - may benefit from extra niacin.
✔ As a cardiovascular hero!
Treatment with nicotinic acid has been shown to halt the progression of atherosclerosis, and reduce deaths from coronary heart disease due to a number of positive effects:
Improves markers of cardiovascular health
Lowers LDL cholesterol
Reduces lipoprotein A (associated with heart disease)
Decreases fibrinogen (associated with heart disease)
May lower blood pressure
✔ For preventing pellagra
Pellagra is the disease of extreme niacin deficiency and causes skin problems, diarrhea and mental disturbances - and death if left untreated.
✔ To repair DNA damage
Niacin is the precursor to coenzymes that actively prevent and repair DNA mutations - the same ‘mishaps’ that may lead to cancer.
✔ For reducing the risk of stroke
Higher levels of niacin may help prevent stroke, and protect the brain from further damage if given soon after a stroke has occurred.
✔ For the adrenal glands
By facilitating the conversion of cholesterol into pregnenolone, a precursor to steroid hormones produced by the adrenal glands. (Put simply - niacin can help your body meet the challenges of stress!
✔ For converting cholesterol to pregnenolone
Pregnenolone sits ‘upstream’ from many of the important, well-recognised hormones such as estrogen, testosterone and corticosteroids. By encouraging cholesterol to convert to pregnenolone, niacin may promote hormonal balance.
✔ For a healthy brain
Preliminary research shows a link between niacin levels and prevention of diseases such as Parkinson’s.
✔ For a healthy gut
Niacin has been shown to benefit small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) and Candida albicans overgrowth (but this may be due to the fact that these conditions deplete niacin). It may also prevent stomach ulcers and generally reduce gut inflammation.
✔ To improve endurance
Some studies show positive effects of niacin on muscle performance and endurance, however they remain inconclusive.
✔ For longevity
Since niacin is the precursor to enzymes that power the cells, repair damage to DNA and exert antioxidant functions, it theoretically promotes longevity.
Reaping Niacin Benefits Through Supplementation
Niacin is scientifically proven to reduce high cholesterol and reduce multiple risk factors associated with cardiovascular disease. Due to its role in energy production and DNA repair, it may also offer extra energy, stress support, brain protection and longevity.
It has been included in Athletic Greens for it’s brilliant effect on cholesterol and the helpful B vitamins it contains.
It works well with policosanol and beta glucans to lower LDL cholesterol levels and with vitamin B5, rhodiola, eleuthero and ashwagandha in the Athletic Greens formula to help take a load off the adrenal glands and help you adapt to stress.
Niacin is a water soluble acid and safe to ingest, even at high doses.
For those using it for the treatment of high cholesterol and in the prevention of cardiovascular disease, doses generally start at 1 gram, and range up to 3 grams, depending on how much ‘flushing’ a person can tolerate.
Side effects - aside from flushing - include an upset stomach and in rare cases, liver damage, blood sugar problems, low blood pressure and arrhythmia. People taking prescribed medication should always check with their healthcare professional before taking high doses of niacin.
Apple pectin may reduce the rate at which niacin is absorbed, and mitigate ‘flushing’.
Energy Boosting Niacin Benefits
Just like nicotinamide before it, niacin as nicotinic acid is often thought of as a way to boost energy levels especially when used as part of a B-complex supplement.
While it may give you red flushes when taking high doses, it can work to alleviate acute feelings of fatigue, remembering that most benefits are only seen over time.
It is an essential nutrient for health and wellbeing and well worth going the long haul for, as it will more than likely return the favor ten fold!