Harvard Heart Letter

Ask the doctor: Is no-flush niacin as effective as other kinds of niacin?

Q. I tried taking niacin to increase my HDL but didn't like the flushing it caused. A friend told me about no-flush niacin, which works like a charm. Why not tell your readers about it?

A. When you say no-flush niacin works like a charm, I assume you mean it doesn't cause any flushing. What you might not know is that it isn't doing your HDL any good.

Niacin, also known as vitamin B3, comes in two forms — nicotinic acid and nicotinamide. Both boost protective HDL and lower harmful LDL and triglycerides. Most people who take the high doses of standard, immediate-release niacin that are needed to improve HDL experience a feeling of flushing or itching, usually in the face. It starts within 30 minutes of taking the medication, and lasts for an hour or so.

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