Health Benefits of Niacin: HDL & Lp(a) Cholesterol

by Dr. Stephen Sinatra
Filed Under: Heart Health, Cholesterol, Nutrients and Additives
Last Reviewed 04/16/2014

You’ve heard me say time and again that reducing cholesterol is not the magic bullet that will prevent heart attack and stroke. I stand by this statement wholeheartedly—but I don’t want you to interpret it to mean that cholesterol is unimportant.

Optimum cardiovascular health requires maintaining a healthy cholesterol ratio—that is, keeping your LDL cholesterol levels (the so-called “bad” cholesterol) in proper balance with your HDL levels (the “good” type of cholesterol). It also calls for minimizing the amount of Lp(a) cholesterol in your blood, and not letting your triglyceride levels get out of hand.

Although regular exercise and a cholesterol-lowering diet will go a long way toward helping you achieve these goals, I also recommend that you try some targeted nutritional supplements for an extra boost. One of them is niacin (vitamin B3). It’s a fantastic nutrient that can help you increase HDL cholesterol, as well as lower both triglycerides and the dangerous subtype of cholesterol known as Lp(a).

These are huge health benefits of niacin. For me, keeping HDL levels high and Lp(a) cholesterol down are more significant than lowering LDL or even total cholesterol. Elevated Lp(a) cholesterol is a serious, widespread and underemphasized problem, and niacin is probably one of the best nutrients to lower it. And the higher your good cholesterol levels, the more protection you have in your blood vessels.

Niacin Side Effect: Flushing

The only side effect of niacin is the flushing sensation it generates. This hot, tingly, pins-and-needles feeling is disconcerting to a lot of people, but it usually lasts no more than 30–60 minutes, and it is most pronounced during the first week or so that you take the supplement (it can also occur when you increase your dosage). You can find no-flush forms of niacin, but they’re not as effective. I would stick with the regular kind.

I recommend taking 1–2 g a day in divided doses with meals for optimal health benefits of niacin. Start with 250 mg and slowly work your way up to minimize the flushing effect. Let me know how it works for you!

For more information on how to increase HDL cholesterol while lowering LDL cholesterol levels, visit

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