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Study Finds Vitamin Once Prescribed to Lower Heart Disease Risk May Actually Raise It

Recent research published in Nature Medicine suggests that elevated levels of niacin, a type of B vitamin commonly found in foods and added to fortified cereals and breads, may increase the risk of heart disease. The study, which examined blood samples from 1,162 individuals evaluated for heart disease, identified a substance called 4PY, produced when niacin levels are high. Researchers found a strong correlation between elevated 4PY levels and individuals who had experienced heart attacks, strokes, or other cardiac events. Additionally, the study revealed that 4PY directly contributes to vascular inflammation, which can lead to the development of atherosclerosis over time.

Approximately one in four participants showed elevated niacin levels and high 4PY levels in their blood. However, the exact threshold for unhealthy niacin levels remains uncertain, according to the study authors.

Niacin, also known as vitamin B3, is an essential micronutrient that supports various bodily functions, including energy metabolism and cell signaling. It is obtained from external sources such as supplements and food, including fortified cereals, bread products, poultry, fish, and seeds.

While niacin is added to certain foods to prevent nutritional deficiencies, its relationship with heart health has been subject to debate. Although prescription medications containing niacin have been used to lower cholesterol levels, recent research questions their effectiveness in reducing cardiovascular risk.

The latest findings suggest a potential link between niacin and increased heart disease risk, particularly through its metabolite 4PY. However, experts emphasize the need for further research to better understand the optimal niacin dosage and its impact on cardiovascular health.

Individuals currently taking niacin supplements for cholesterol management are advised to consult their healthcare providers. While the study raises questions about niacin’s role in heart health, experts stress the importance of obtaining essential vitamins from a balanced diet and using caution with dietary supplements.

As our understanding of nutrition evolves, it is crucial to prioritize evidence-based practices and seek personalized recommendations from healthcare professionals regarding supplement use and overall health management.

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