Large doses of nicotinic acid -- 100 mg to 1,000 mg (1 g) daily -- are effective in lowering blood levels of triglycerides and the "bad" low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, while increasing blood levels of the "good" high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol. This makes niacin an important tool in preventing or reversing heart disease. Niacin raises HDL cholesterol levels significantly more than the commonly used drug lovastatin. Although lovastatin lowers LDL cholesterol levels more than niacin does, the niacin also lowers blood levels of another lipid factor called Lp(a); researchers believe that elevated Lp(a) levels are an additional risk for cardiovascular disease.
When oat bran is added to the niacin regime, most people get even more impressive results. Kidney transplant patients, who often have high cholesterol levels, also see dramatic benefits from taking niacin. But niacin (as nicotinic acid) in doses higher than 500 mg daily can cause severe side effects, including liver damage, diabetes, gastritis, and an elevation in blood levels of uric acid (which can cause gout). So researchers and nutrition experts developed inositol hexaniacinate. Inositol hexaniacinate acts like niacin to lower cholesterol but without the severe side effects. People are able to supplement daily with doses up to 3000 mg (3 g) without risk of liver or stomach inflammation, nor does the supplement increase the risk of diabetes or gout.
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Niacin is used to treat many
ailments, including high
Numerous clinical studies show great promise for niacinamide. When given early during the onset of diabetes, it seems to help restore the insulin-producing cells. Patients go longer without needing insulin, use less insulin when it is needed, and have better blood glucose control. Other studies combined niacinamide with various immunosuppressive drugs, but results were not as good as with niacin alone. Since niacin can interfere with glucose tolerance, people with diabetes should not self-medicate. Work with a nutritionally trained medical doctor or registered dietician to be on the safe side.
Niacinamide may also help arthritis patients, particularly those with osteoarthritis, the most common form of this disease. Hundreds of patients report improvement after taking large doses -- up to 200 mg daily.
Some headache specialists prescribe Vitamin B3 in daily doses of 150 mg to help treat migraines, in the hopes that the dilating effects of niacin will help stabilize the overdilating-constricting cycle of cerebral blood vessels.
In the past, it was thought that Vitamin B3 might be beneficial for schizophrenia. Treatment results were so inconsistent, however, that niacin therapy is no longer attempted except in therapeutic trials while patients are in the hospital or other long-term care facility.
The best sources of Vitamin B3 are foods with a high protein content, such as meat, eggs, and peanuts. Go to the next page to learn more about foods that are rich in niacin.
Niacin isn't the only nutrient you need to maintain good health. Check out these links to learn more about vitamins that need to be part of your diet.
- Vitamin A, or retinol, plays a vital role in vision. Learn more in How Vitamin A Works.
- A vitamin B1, or thiamin, deficiency results in the disease beriberi. Learn more in How Vitamin B1 Works.
- In How Vitamin B2 Works, read about how B2, or riboflavin, works in concert with its B-complex relatives to metabolize carbohydrates, fats, and proteins.
- In How Vitamin E Works, learn about this important antioxidant with far-reaching health benefits.
- Vitamin K is important in allowing your blood to clot properly. Learn more in How Vitamin K Works.
- To learn about the many vitamins in our diet, how much you should be eating, and where to find them, go to our general Vitamins page.
- To find the best prices on B vitamin supplements, click here.