Proponents of the cholesterol theory of cardiovascular disease claim that high intakes of dietary cholesterol cause increases in the blood levels of certain lipoproteins that carry cholesterol. This in turn we are told leads to the development of atherosclerosis, which is the cause of cardiovascular disease. The solution is suggested to be a reduction in the dietary cholesterol intake and a lowering of blood cholesterol with statin drugs.
Current Mainstream Treatments
Scientific evidence shows that lowering intakes of dietary cholesterol does not prevent cardiovascular disease. Dietary cholesterol is not able to influence blood cholesterol concentrations because most of the cholesterol in the blood is synthesised endogenously in the liver from other substances. Statin drugs do cause very small reductions in the amounts of deaths from cardiovascular disease, but this is offset by higher deaths from other causes.
Statin drugs and low cholesterol diets, the current mainstream treatment for cardiovascular disease, do not save lives. In fact evidence supports the contention that low cholesterol diets and statin drugs are both detrimental to the health. Statin drugs have dangerous side effects including muscle pain and coenzyme Q10 depletion and low cholesterol diets are dull and tasteless. The fact that blood cholesterol can be more effectively lowered by other substances is also problematic.
Niacin is one of the substances that makes up the vitamin B3 group of vitamers. In lower doses niacin is best known as a cofactor to electron carriers (NAD) in energy producing reactions. However, niacin also has pharmacological effects when taken in very high doses. Studies show that niacin is able to effectively lower cholesterol levels in humans. In fact, niacin is as effective as many pharmaceutical drugs in this respect.
How Does Niacin Work?
Niacin lowers plasma levels of low density lipoprotein, very low density lipoprotein and lipoprotein(a). Niacin can do this because it inhibits the synthesis of triglycerides in the liver, and this in turn reduces the need for the primary triglyceride lipoprotein transporter (very low density lipoprotein). Because low density lipoprotein and lipoprotein(a) are breakdown products of very low density lipoprotein, levels of these drop too.
Niacin is able to reduce blood level of low density lipoprotein, very low density lipoprotein and lipoprotein(a) all of which are associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease. In addition, niacin can also increase blood levels of high density lipoprotein by inhibiting its breakdown. High density lipoprotein is associated with protection from cardiovascular disease, and so niacin may therefore have multiple favourable effects on lipoprotein metabolism.