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“New Research Links High Levels of Niacin to Increased Risk of Heart Disease”

New Research Links High Levels of Niacin to Increased Risk of Heart Disease

Niacin, a B vitamin found in many foods and added to fortified cereals and breads, has been linked to a higher risk of heart disease, according to a new study published in Nature Medicine. The research discovered that elevated levels of niacin can trigger inflammation and damage blood vessels, leading to the development of atherosclerosis over time.

The study analyzed blood samples from 1,162 people who were evaluated for heart disease, looking for common markers in their blood that could help identify new risk factors. The researchers found that a substance called 4PY, which is produced when there is an excess of niacin in the body, was strongly associated with patients who had experienced a heart attack, stroke, or other cardiac event. Furthermore, the study revealed that 4PY directly triggers vascular inflammation, causing damage to blood vessels.

Approximately one in four study participants had high levels of 4PY in their blood, indicating that they may be consuming too much niacin. However, the researchers noted that they do not yet know the exact amount of niacin that is considered unhealthy.

Niacin, also known as vitamin B3, is a water-soluble B vitamin that is essential for various bodily functions. It is added to flour, bread products, and fortified cereals to prevent nutritional deficiencies. Niacin breaks down into NAD+, which plays a crucial role in energy metabolism, fatty acid breakdown, DNA repair, cell signaling, and antioxidant defense. Additionally, niacinamide, another breakdown product of niacin, has protective functions for the skin.

The recommended dietary allowance for niacin is 16 milligrams for adult men and 14 milligrams for adult women. While niacin has been used as a medication to lower high cholesterol levels in the past, its effectiveness has been questioned in recent years. Alternative approaches to cholesterol management have been found to be more beneficial in reducing cardiovascular disease risks.

The latest study adds to the growing evidence against the use of niacin for heart disease. Dr. Cheng-Han Chen, a board-certified interventional cardiologist, believes that this study will further discourage the use of niacin in heart disease treatment. However, more research is needed to determine the appropriate dosage and the relationship between niacin and cardiovascular disease.

It is important to note that the study findings do not suggest that consuming fortified bread or cereal will increase the risk of heart disease. The doses of niacin used in the research were significantly higher than the recommended dietary allowance. Therefore, individuals who should pay attention to this research are those currently taking large doses of niacin for cholesterol management.

The main takeaway from this study is not to eliminate niacin intake entirely but rather to have a discussion about the continued fortification of flour and cereal with niacin in the United States. Niacin has several benefits when taken at low doses, such as supporting energy metabolism, neurological function, and maintaining healthy skin. At higher doses, niacin has been used to treat high cholesterol and triglyceride levels, although its use for these purposes should be closely monitored by a healthcare provider.

Previous research has shown conflicting results regarding niacin’s effect on clogged arteries. While some studies suggested that niacin could reduce plaque buildup and raise HDL cholesterol, recent data have not supported these findings. Niacin may be helpful for controlling cholesterol in individuals who cannot take statins, but it does not significantly impact overall cardiovascular disease risk.

If you are currently taking niacin to lower your risk of heart disease, it is advisable to consult with your doctor before making any changes. It is too early to make recommendations based solely on this study. Dr. Chen recommends holding off on taking extra niacin supplementation until further research is conducted.

In conclusion, the science of nutrition is continually evolving as we gain more knowledge and improve our tools. While large doses of niacin may not be as beneficial as once thought, it is still important to obtain vitamins from food sources and avoid extremes. Patients should consult with their doctors before taking over-the-counter supplements and focus on a diet rich in fruits and vegetables while limiting excess carbohydrates.

Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. Dietary supplements should be approached with caution, especially during pregnancy or nursing. It is important to consult with a healthcare provider before giving supplements to children.


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