Niacin for Cholesterol Dose Benefits and Side Effects
Niacin is a vitamin (it is also called vitamin B3) and it is considered a nutrient that is essential to human life and development. While niacin is most often thought of in terms of health benefits as something not to have a deficiency in (thus the onset of pellagra) it is actually considered useful in some health applications, such as the use of niacin for cholesterol. In terms of dietary intake alone, the regular daily consumption amount is between 2 and 12 milligrams for children and 14 milligrams daily for women. Niacin needs are higher in men and breastfeeding women, at 16 milligrams and 18 milligrams daily for each.
Niacin’s use to manage high cholesterol has been well established, and high doses of the drug are used via prescriptions in order balance cholesterol numbers. The Mayo Clinic explains that using niacin for cholesterol actually works in two ways, where levels of HDL cholesterol are increased and levels of LDL cholesterol are reduced. In this way, niacin is able to tackle high cholesterol from two angles, both by amping up HDL in the bloodstream that can scoop up and sweep away bad LDL lipids and by contributing to overall LDL reduction on its own.
But, the benefits of B3 along with other vitamins for cholesterol do not stop at just good and bad lipid levels. Niacin medications may be able to reduce high triglycerides as well. High triglycerides can translate to fat in the body and are considered a major precursor to heart related disease and illness later in life.
WebMD does make some interesting observations about taking niacin however. They explain that many people choose to take supplements bought over the counter as a means to use niacin for cholesterol reduction. However, this comes with some problems. For use in cholesterol lowering supplements, the dosage of niacin available over the counter is not likely to provide any real benefit. And, what is worse is that these over the counter supplements may contribute to unpleasant side effects and potentially liver damage.
In the case of considering niacin for cholesterol reduction, it is best to speak to a doctor and consider prescription medications like Niaspan. When combined with diet and exercise, Niaspan can have a remarkable effect on cholesterol levels. Dosing of the medication varies between 500 milligrams daily and 2000 milligrams daily in anywhere from one to four pills per twenty four hours. Rxlist.com points out that the dosage schedule depends on need, tolerance and represents a gradual increase in dosage based on the individual tolerances of the user.
In terms of side effects, niacin (prescription strength) falls somewhere between the extreme end of adverse reactions such as statins, and the opposite end of the spectrum, like over the counter fish oil and cholesterol supplements. Niaspan has some of the side effects including skin irritation, sweating and chills, nausea, gastrointestinal disturbances, problems sleeping, dizziness and several other mild complaints. One of the most common complaints associated with using prescription strength niacin for cholesterol reduction is a sensation of flushing under the skin. It has been suggested that this sensation dissipates somewhat over time, and that the recurrence of flushing may vary from various types of the medication (such as regular and extended release offerings).
Unfortunately, although niacin occurs naturally in many different types of food, it is impossible to ingest enough B3 to have any sort of impact on cholesterol levels. There are many supplements that contain niacin for cholesterol reduction, however because of safety concerns and the potential risk of liver damage, its likely better to skip the supplements and opt instead for a consultation with a health care provider. Not only is he or she equipped to properly determine dosage instructions based on your specific needs and health condition, they will also be able to determine whether or not niacin for cholesterol reduction is right for you based on how out of control your lipid levels are. It is possible that niacin based medications may not be suitable instead of statins or other medications known as fibrates.
For some people, niacin can serve as an alternative to other prescription medications that are used to lower cholesterol. While considered safer than many other types of prescription drugs, it is still imperative that a doctor be consulted about the use of niacin and that over the counter supplements be passed over due to safety and dosing concerns.