If you’re looking for a safe, effective, and cheap way to lower cholesterol, look no further than niacin.
I’ve been using vitamin B3 — also called niacin or nicotinic acid — to lower cholesterol in patients for years. Unlike statin drugs, which mainly reduce LDL cholesterol, niacin also helps raise HDL (“good”) cholesterol.
In addition, it lowers triglycerides, the dangerous type of blood fat increasingly implicated in causing heart attack and stroke. Niacin also transforms small, bullet-like LDL particles into the larger, fluffier, more harmless type. I do use statin drugs in cases where cholesterol needs to be brought down quickly, as in the case of people who have recently suffered heart attacks, or those whose cholesterol is dangerously high.
But I also believe that statins are overprescribed, so I look for alternatives for patients who do not require such powerful drugs to bring their cholesterol to target levels. For them, lifestyle changes, especially following a plant-based diet, along with regular exercise and the addition of niacin, may be enough.
I recommend beginning niacin at a low dose (250 mg) and building up to 1,500 to 3,000 mg daily. Fifteen percent of those taking niacin experience flushing, but increasing the dosage very slowly usually prevents this. The process can take up to a year.
Be very cautious about adding niacin if you already take statins because taking both can increase the potential of adverse side effects. Also, be sure to tell your doctor the medications you are taking. This includes over-the-counter drugs and supplements.
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