At the Jefferson Heart Institute at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia, researchers found that niacin (vitamin B-3) could benefit people with high cholesterol. In this study, 60 patients were given either 1,000 mg of niacin, 2,000 mg of niacin (slow-release) or a placebo for 12 weeks. According to the researchers, niacin may have many benefits for high cholesterol patients. They found it increased levels of HDL (“good”) cholesterol while decreasing levels of both LDL (“bad”) cholesterol and triglycerides. After further investigation, the researchers found that both doses of niacin produced a beneficial effect on the subclasses of cholesterol in the blood; it decreases the size of the small, dense LDL particles while increasing the large, heart-protective HDL particles.
Researchers at the Diabetes Research Center in California also found that niacin had a broad spectrum of benefits for patients who had both diabetes and high cholesterol, due to its specific benefits on cholesterol particles in the blood. In this study, the various cholesterol particle sizes were measured in 42 patients with diabetes and high cholesterol before and after niacin treatment. Researchers found that niacin decreased the size of small, dense LDL particles while increasing both the total amount of HDL cholesterol and the large particle size by nearly double.
Niacin is also an essential nutrient for the skin and the digestive tract. Obtained from meat, eggs, nuts and whole grains, the body uses niacin for energy, metabolism and nerve function.
Sources: Am J Cardiol. 2003 Jun 15;91(12):1432-6; Diabetes Obes Metab. 2002 Jul;4(4):255-61