High levels of niacin linked to heart disease, new research suggests

High levels of niacin linked to heart disease, new research suggests

New research published in Nature Medicine suggests that high levels of niacin, a vital B vitamin, may pose a risk for heart disease by triggering inflammation and causing damage to blood vessels. This revelation sheds light on a previously unknown danger associated with excessive niacin consumption, commonly found in various foods such as meat, fish, nuts, and fortified cereals and breads.

According to the study’s senior author, Dr. Stanley Hazen of the Cleveland Clinic’s Lerner Research Institute, approximately 1 in 4 Americans surpass the recommended daily intake of niacin, which is 16 milligrams for men and 14 milligrams for non-pregnant women. Despite the prevalent consumption of niacin-fortified foods, the research emphasizes the need for caution regarding niacin supplementation due to its potential cardiovascular risks.

Historically, niacin supplementation was once advocated to improve cholesterol levels before the advent of cholesterol-lowering statins. However, the recent study warns against such supplementation, suggesting a possible link between excess niacin and an increased risk of cardiovascular disease.

To investigate this further, Hazen and his team conducted a comprehensive study involving blood sample analyses from over 1,000 patients, revealing a correlation between elevated niacin levels and the production of a substance called 4PY. Subsequent validation studies, comprising thousands of adults with or at risk of heart disease, confirmed that elevated 4PY levels were predictive of future cardiovascular events.

Further experiments on mice demonstrated that injection with 4PY led to increased inflammation in their blood vessels, affirming the potential role of niacin in cardiovascular inflammation.

Dr. Robert Rosenson of the Mount Sinai Health System lauded the findings as significant, suggesting that the identification of this new pathway could pave the way for the development of medications to mitigate blood vessel inflammation and reduce cardiovascular risks.

Rosenson also advocated for reevaluating the use of niacin in food products, cautioning against excessive niacin consumption.

Dr. Amanda Doran of the Vanderbilt University Medical Center expressed surprise at niacin’s inflammatory properties, highlighting the study’s interdisciplinary approach combining clinical data, genetic analysis, and animal experiments. Doran believes that this discovery holds promise for future research aiming to alleviate blood vessel inflammation and reduce cardiovascular risks.

Overall, the study’s findings underscore the importance of balanced niacin consumption and highlight the potential implications for dietary recommendations and future therapeutic interventions in cardiovascular disease management.