Studies have shown that niacin can slow the buildup of plaque within the arteries and may even reverse the buildup of plaque. These studies used niacin in combination with a bile acid sequestrant (another type of cholesterol medication); it is not clear if niacin alone can produce these benefits.
Heart Attack Prevention
Studies have shown that niacin can help reduce the risk of a second heart attack in people who have high cholesterol and have already had one heart attack. It is not clear if niacin has similar benefits for people who have never had a heart attack.
Pellagra is another name for a vitamin B3 (niacin) deficiency. Although rare in the United States, some situations or conditions may increase the risk of pellagra. These include:
- Poor diet
- Chronic alcoholism
- Certain tumors
- Hartnup disease (a rare genetic condition)
- Cirrhosis of the liver
- Pregnancy (especially with multiples)
Most people get more than enough niacin to avoid pellagra simply through the diet. Pellagra can be treated with either form of niacin (nicotinic acid or nicotinamide).
Other Claimed Benefits of Niacin
It has been clearly demonstrated that niacin is effective for improving cholesterol and for treating pellagra. However, other claimed niacin benefits are not as well-established. These possible benefits of niacin include:
- Treating peripheral artery disease (PAD)
- Treating or preventing migraines
- Treating depression
- Treating or preventing motion sickness
- Treating Meniere's disease
- Promoting relaxation
- Decreasing the risk of Alzheimer's disease
- Decreasing the risk of cataracts
- Reducing diarrhea and fluid loss caused by cholera
- Preventing type 1 diabetes in high-risk children (nicotinamide only)
- Preserving some of the function of insulin-producing cells in people with type 2 diabetes or early type 1 diabetes
- Treating osteoarthritis
- Treating attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) when used in combination with high-dose vitamins (nicotinamide only)
- Treating schizophrenia.