For many of us, natural supplements offer an alternative that, properly used, can be as good as, or better, than prescription agents. But misleading claims and misinformation can make choosing a supplement difficult.

One reputable natural supplement that comes to mind is niacin — a B vitamin. I challenge anyone to find a better all-round product that lowers LDL (bad) cholesterol, raises HDL (good) cholesterol, lower triglycerides, and, most importantly for me, lowers lipoprotein(a), a blood particle recently shown to be a factor in early heart disease and a condition for which there is virtually no other viable treatment.

Of course, just because a product is “natural” does not mean it is not powerful; supplements should be treated with respect. Niacin can cause a hot flush that is so objectionable so people cannot tolerate it. Niacin misuse can cause liver problems and, especially when taken in conjunction with other cholesterol lowering drugs, can increase the risk of rhabdomyolysis, a potentially fatal condition where muscle tissue is destroyed.

False Niacin "Replacements"

Certain preparations claim to be as effective as niacin but without the bothersome side effects. Sadly, the following so-called niacin replacement products are virtually worthless.

Nicotinamide: Yes, this sounds a lot like “nicotinic acid,” but it’s not. It is the “amide” of nicotinic acid (an amide is created by adding a carbon, oxygen, and nitrogen atom to the base compound). The body converts a portion of niacin into nicotinamide but this compound has none of the heart-healthy properties of real niacin.

Inositol hexaniacinate: Often known as “no-flush” niacin, it is similar to niacin in that it contains six niacin molecules attached to an inositol molecule. Actually, this compound works really well in some animals. Unfortunately, humans lack the enzyme needed to utilize the niacin-containing portion of this product.

Find more information in this article I wrote on niacin on the HeartConnect site.