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Niacin found potentially harmful to diabetics.


Researchers were able to demonstrate the cholesterol-lowering effect of nicotinic acid (niacin) years ago. Because this member of the B complex of vitamins is available in any food store or pharmacy at low cost, it has found considerable favor among those seeking to lower their serum cholesterol levels. Although such a purpose involves taking large daily doses, the vitamin has not, until recently, been known to produce serious side effects.

A recent article in The Journal of the American Medical Association reports that diabetics may be seriously at risk from such large daily doses. Thirteen male diabetics with high cholesterol and triglyceride levels were given 1,500 mg of niacin three times a day for eight weeks. Although average levels of LDL cholesterol (the so-called "bad" cholesterol) fell 15 percent, as average levels of HDL cholesterol (the "good" kind) rose 34 percent, diabetes symptoms among the men became more difficult to control. For instance, blood glucose levels during the test period rose an average 16 percent. Larger insulin doses could not correct one patient's glucose level. Two patients actually experienced such significant blood sugar level reductions that they had to curtail using their diabetes medications.

The study also discovered increases in uric acid levels among all 13 volunteers--to very high levels in two cases. Because high uric acid levels are found in patients with gout, the study's researchers allowed for the possibility of this disease occurring in persons taking large niacin doses.

Although the study involved relatively few subjects--meaning that the results should be regarded as preliminary, pending further studies on larger groups--enough evidence exists to suggest that persons with diabetes and higher-than-recommended cholesterol levels should be made aware of the potential hazards of ingesting large niacin doses to control cholesterol levels.
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Publication:Medical Update
Date:Oct 1, 1990
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