Vitamin B3 has been linked to risk of heart attack and stroke in recent study

People taking this vitamin regularly have been warned to take care.

Vitamin B3 linked to risk of heart attack and stroke
© Towfiqu barbhuiya / UNSPLASH
Vitamin B3 linked to risk of heart attack and stroke

We all know that the key to a healthy life is to exercise regularly and eat a balanced diet. However, sometimes this slips out of control with a busy work-life schedule and we turn to supplements to help catch us up on our essentials. Swallowing a few pills in the morning is certainly less time-consuming than cooking healthy meals all week long. We already covered a list of supplements and vitamins that can be dangerous if you take too much of them, but today we are focusing on vitamin B3. A recent study, published in Nature Medicine, has found that this supplement has strangely paradoxical effects, and these can even lead to a higher risk of heart disease and stroke.

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Let’s take a look into the study’s findings, the risks of vitamin B3, and how to minimise your chances of getting heart disease or suffering a stroke.

The study’s findings

Vitamin B3 is also known as niacin, and is essential in your body’s daily functions. Indeed, it is deemed so important that the government has supported companies including it in common foods such as cereals to fortify the products.

However, researchers at the Cleveland Clinic have discovered that excess niacin increases the circulation of a certain by-product. This is called 4PY, and having elevated levels of this substance can be dangerous. Large-scale clinical trials have shown that higher circulating levels of 4PY are linked to heart attack, stroke and other cardiac issues.

The risks

So, why would you be at risk? Well, let’s take a look at how niacin used to be used.

Niacin used to be prescribed to increase HDL cholesterol - the ‘good’ type that helps remove LDL, the ‘bad’ type, from the bloodstream. These stand for high-density lipoprotein and low-density lipoprotein respectively.

However, niacin was then shown to be less effective than other drugs that lowered cholesterol. Nowadays, over-the-counter supplements that contain forms of niacin claim to have all sorts of benefits, including anti-aging and brain boosting properties.

Dr Stanley Hazen, who led the research, stated:

For decades, the United States and more than 50 nations have mandated niacin fortification in staple foods such as flour, cereals and oats to prevent disease related to nutritional deficiency.

He believes that the findings of the study should prompt ‘a discussion over whether a continued mandate of flour and cereal fortification with niacin in the US could be warranted’.

How to minimise your chances of heart disease or a stroke

First of all, most people should be able to get the niacin they need from their diet. Good sources include meat, fish, eggs and wheat flour. In general, to minimise your chances of heart disease or a stroke, you have to look after your cholesterol levels. High levels can lead to build-up on the walls of your arteries which can interfere with blood flow to the heart.

High cholesterol is usually caused by eating fatty foods, smoking, drinking alcohol and not getting enough exercise. You can lower your cholesterol by making some changes to your eating and lifestyle habits, cutting back on alcohol, and quitting smoking.

The NHS has more tips on their website.

Read more:

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Sources used:

The Sun: VITAMIN B-AD? Common 3p supplement that ‘lowers cholesterol’ is linked to ‘risk of heart attack and stroke’

NHS: How to lower your cholesterol

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