Cholesterol Drug Trial Halted, Niacin Doesn’t Help Heart

Cholesterol drug Niaspan may not protect the heart as previously thought. Niacin is Vitamin B3. It helps with proper blood circulation and a healthy nervous system. Niacin has long been known to raise HDL and lower triglycerides. Participants took a statin as well as niacin. Unfortunately, the combination treatment did not reduce heart attacks. According to the NIH’s website, “The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) of the National Institutes of Health has stopped a clinical trial studying a blood lipid treatment 18 months earlier than planned. The trial found that adding high dose, extended-release niacin to statin treatment in people with heart and vascular disease, did not reduce the risk of cardiovascular events, including heart attacks and stroke.” During the study’s 32 months of follow-up, participants who took high dose, extended-release niacin and statin treatment had increased HDL cholesterol and lowered triglyceride levels compared to participants who took a statin alone. However, the combination treatment did not reduce fatal or non-fatal heart attacks, strokes, hospitalizations for acute coronary syndrome, or revascularization procedures to improve blood flow in the arteries of the heart and brain.

With the announcement shares in Abbot stock fell, according to the Chicago Tribune, “The change of heart by physicians about the need for Abbott’s drug Niaspan follows the release Thursday of a National Institutes of Health study. The study showed the drug failed to prevent heart attacks and slightly increased the risk of a stroke when combined with the popular generic cholesterol pill simvastatin, also known under the brand name Zocor.”

Diet Ideas To Help Your Cholesterol Levels

One of the biggest factors on the cholesterol levels in your blood stream isn’t the amount of fat you eat, but the mix of fats in your diet. Saturated and trans fats are bad for you, while monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats are better for you.

Here’s how to spot the 4:

  • Monounsaturated fats (good)—Canola, peanut, and olive oils all have high concentrations of monounsaturated fats.
  • Polyunsaturated fats (good)—Sunflower, corn, soybean, and flaxseed oils all have high levels of this fat.
  • Saturated fats (bad)—Meat, poultry with skin, and whole-milk dairy products all contain saturated fats. In packaged foods they’re easy to spot, since the amount is right on the nutrition label.
  • Trans fats (bad)—These are now included on the nutrition label as well, and some cities like New York have banned their use in restaurants.

So how do you work that information into a cholesterol diet?

It’s not rocket science. Just take a three pronged approach: substitute good fats for bad ones, decrease bad fats when possible, and increase good fats.

  • Red meat is high in bad fats, so substitute other protein sources like beans and soy protein like tofu.
  • In general, liquid fats are better than solid fats; substituting oil in the place of butter when cooking can help you replace bad fats with good ones.
  • Buying lower fat dairy products (milk, yogurt, and sour cream) will also cut your intake of fat without a major change in what you eat.

It’s also possible to eliminate some fats altogether. Avoiding fried foods is a good way to get trans fats out of your diet.  By broiling meat instead of browning it with oil or butter in a pan, you can avoid introducing extra fat into your new cholesterol diet. Removing the skin on chicken is another way to reduce your intake of bad fats.

The last cholesterol diet trick is to eat foods that have good fat in them. Avocados, walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts, pecans, pumpkin seeds and sesame seeds all contain good fat. A little sprinkle here or snack there can go a long way toward getting your fats in the correct balance.

For more on heart health, look here. For a power list of foods with good fats for great cholesterol, read this

1 Comment

  • I am a lipidologist and have used statins with niacin. More evaluation of AIM HIGH TRIAL will be forthcoming.

    Until more data is out, I will continue to use Niacin. However, I never use more than 1,000 mg of endur-acin a day. This form of niacin is cheaper and a slower release form of niacin. If AIM HIGH Trial used 2,000 mg of Niaspan in patients with metabolic syndrome, that high dose may have had an adverse effect on insulin resistance. This is why instead of going to maximum dose of statin or going to high dose of niacin, I add a third drug called zetia to get to goal. I think we need to learn from treating Hypertension, diabetes and AIDS and cancer. Multiple drugs at lower doses works better than high doses of fewer drugs. I am suggesting that niacin failed in AIM HIGH because high doses of niacin were used. Still AIM HIGH results were surprising and need to be evaluated.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *