Niacin and Cholesterol Reduction!

NiacinMany in the health care profession have forgotten about the positive relationship between niacin and cholesterol.  Instead they have promoted drugs[/intlink] to control cholesterol levels.  That’s unfortunate because niacin can be just as effective.  

What is Niacin?

Niacin is a member of the vitamin B family.  Specifically it is vitamin B3 or nicotinic acid.  Because it’s a water soluble vitamin it needs to be replenished on a daily basis.  The recommended daily allowance (RDA) of niacin is 2-12 mg/day for children, 14 mg/day for women and 16 mg/day for men.  This RDA is the minimum required to prevent niacin deficiency which can be characterized by the following conditions: 

  • Slow metabolism
  • Decreased tolerance to the cold
  • Irritability
  • Poor concentration
  • Anxiety
  • Fatigue
  • Restlessness
  • Depression
  • Dementia 

Niacin can be obtained through your dietary intake of the following foods:  liver, heart, kidney, chicken, beef, tuna, salmon, milk, eggs, avocados, dates, tomatoes, leaf vegetables, broccoli, carrots, sweet potatoes, asparagus, nuts, whole grain products, legumes, mushrooms, and brewer’s yeast.  

Cooking preparation is important since niacin is readily lost when food is cooked in water.  Coupled with poor eating habits and foods depleted of their essential nutrients, many people insure their niacin RDA through vitamin supplements.  If you choose a vitamin supplement then it is recommended that niacin is best taken with the other B vitamins and vitamin C.  

Niacin is used by your body to help turn carbohydrates into energy.  Niacin also aids your nervous system, digestive system, skin, hair and eyes.  Niacin is also needed to help metabolize fats, which brings us to its ability to reduce cholesterol levels. 

Niacin and Cholesterol Levels

To positively affect cholesterol levels, your niacin intake must be substantially greater than the RDA.  As reported in the November 1998 American Journal of Cardiology, therapeutic levels of niacin have been clearly shown to: 

  1. Lower LDL (BAD) and total cholesterol levels.
  2. Raise HDL (GOOD) cholesterol levels.
  3. Lower triglyceride (fat) levels. 

Not only does niacin lower the “Bad” LDL cholesterol but it also substantially increases the “Good” HDL cholesterol.  Many feel that increasing HDL cholesterol is more important than lowering LDL cholesterol.  This is because the high-density lipoproteins (HDL) will sweep up the low-density lipoproteins (LDL) in your blood stream to keep them from damaging your cells[/intlink]

Niacin can raise the HDL “Good” cholesterol by 15 to 35 percent.  The Mayo Clinic estimates that for every 1 milligram per deciliter increase in HDL cholesterol you reduce your risk for heart attack by 3 percent.  This means that the proper therapeutic use of niacin can lower the risks for atherosclerosis and other cardiovascular diseases.    

Warning!  If you are going to substantial increase your niacin intake above RDA levels then you should always discuss it first with your doctor.  The reason why is that niacin can cause side effects when taken in high doses.  This brings us to the reason why niacin has fallen out of favor in the treatment of cholesterol? 

Flushing and Other Niacin Side Effects!

From over-the-counter supplements to prescription formulations, niacin comes in a variety of forms.  Some are fast-acting and others are designed to act over a long period thru time-released encapsulation.  

For therapeutic use to positively affecting your cholesterol levels, usually high doses of niacin (1000 milligrams or more) are administered.  At this level most people will experience a “niacin flush” which is a temporary shunting (or vasodilation) of blood to the skin surface.  The flush usually lasts for 15 to 30 minutes and will cause the skin to redden, feel warm to the touch, and may cause you to perspire.  Although annoying, the “niacin flush” isn’t harmful.  Some have found that taking an aspirin shortly before you take your niacin can help to alleviate this flushing effect.  Hot drinks and alcohol can increase this flushing so it’s recommended that you avoid them when taking niacin. 

To reduce the potential for flushing, some people will take a time-released niacin formulation.  While this may help reduce the non-threatening, but inconvenient flushing, it increases the risk of harmful liver enzyme elevation.  The continuous release of niacin into the liver can disrupt healthy methylation reactions that are essential to liver health.  Fast acting niacin supplements do not usually present this problem.  

It’s also important to note that therapeutic use of niacin does not mean taking 1000 milligrams at one time.  Usually the total intake recommended by a qualified health practitioner is divided throughout the day in levels of 300 to 600 mg of niacin taken twice per day, and with a meal to help offset potential side effects. 

Other potential side effects from therapeutic levels of niacin can include upset stomach, headache, dizziness from a drop in blood pressure, itching, increased blood sugar levels, and elevated liver enzymes.  Thus, people with liver or kidney problems and diabetics need to take extra precaution.  Working with a qualified health professional can help you find the right dose and form of niacin to help minimize these side effects. 

Niacin, Statin Drugs and Current Research!

Niacin, like oxide[/intlink], seems to help statin drugs work more effectively.  Research has shown that niacin, when used with some statins, can increase HDL “Good” cholesterol by 50 percent or more.  Additionally, this combination also reduces LDL “Bad” cholesterol levels more than when statins are used by themselves. 

Statin drugs have some very specific and dangerous side effects so utilizing other natural methods to help lower, and potentially eliminate statin usage can be beneficial for long term heart health.  However, it is always best to check with your doctor and pharmacist before taking niacin with another medication to avoid any potential and dangerous drug interactions.  

It’s also important to note that researchers are coming close to finding a niacin formulation that helps to prevent the dreaded niacin flush.  Much of this research is at Duke University Medical Center and concentrates on G proteins.  According to Robert Walters, M.D.,

“Niacin stimulates production of a vasodilator that dramatically increases blood flow to the face, causing the flush and the hot, prickly sensation – and beta-arrestin 1 is the culprit that enables that to happen.  Interestingly, however, beta-arrestin 1 plays no role whatsoever in niacin’s ability to lower cholesterol and fatty acids.  The G proteins do that.” 

There is also a growing body of work looking at how flavonols – a class of plant-derived polyphenols – could inhibit this niacin flush.  The two flavonoids that have shown the greatest potential are quercetin and luteolin.  Quercetin is a compound that has been shown to promote endothelial function while supporting healthy blood glucose levels.  Luteolin seems to suppress dangerous cytokines that are associated with flushing and other inflammatory reactions.  A small human clinical trial used a combination of niacin, quercetin and luteolin to reduce the unpleasant side effects of niacin supplementation by an estimated 70 percent.  This trial needs to be tested on a larger population base to confirm these findings.    

Because over-the-counter niacin supplements can be just as good as prescription niacin in helping to increase your HDL cholesterol and lower your LDL cholesterol many people are opting for this method in their cholesterol reduction battle.  Just make sure that it’s a reputable company that standardizes its ingredients and formulations.  And, it’s important to note that if you choose to use dosages of niacin higher than the standard RDA, please consult with a qualified medical practitioner so that a proper program can be developed to your specific health goals. 

Together we can work to save a million lives! 

Dan Hammer 

The information contained in this blog is for general information purposes only and never as a substitute for professional medical advice or medical exam.  The information contain in this blogging website has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration and should not be used to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease without the supervision of a qualified medical doctor.

Fiber, Cholesterol, and Other Health Benefits!

Fiber SourcesIf you read my post and Cholesterol Reduction”[/intlink] you know how important fiber can be in helping to lower the “BAD” LDL cholesterol to prevent the cardiovascular disease atherosclerosis.    Fiber is also important in reducing the risk for certain types of cancer, helping control blood sugar for diabetics, reducing the risk for stroke, improving elimination, and can be a useful tool in weight management.  

Because fiber is so important to your general health and wellness I’ve put together a list of good sources of fiber.  Please use this fiber list as a general guide in helping you to find some foods and food groups that appeal to you and your taste buds.  For simplicity, I’ve grouped these items according to grams per serving.  

Serving sizes can vary and so can calories per serving so you will need to read the nutritional label.  This list is not complete but it will help you when you go to the market.   

2 to 4 grams of fiber per serving:

Almonds:  ¼ cup is 2.4 grams

Applesauce:  ½ cup is 2.7 grams

Apricots:  2 halves dried are 1.7 grams

Avocado:  ½ average sized is 2.8 grams

Banana:  1 medium is 3.0 grams

Boston Brown Bread:  2 slices are 4.0 grams

Broccoli:  1 cup cooked or raw is 3 grams

Brussel Sprouts:  1 cup is 4.0 grams

Cabbage:  1 cup cooked is 4.0 grams

Carrots:  1 cup cooked is 4 grams

Cauliflower:  1 cup cooked is 2.5 grams

Celery:  ½ cup raw is 4.0 grams

Coconut:  1 tablespoon dried is 3.4 grams

Corn:  1 cup cooked is 4 grams

Cornbread:  1 square (2 ½”) is 3.4 grams

Cornflakes Cereal:  1 cup is 3.5 grams

Cracked Wheat Bread:  2 slices are 3.6 grams

Cranberries:  ½ cup in sauce form is 4.0 grams

English Muffin (Whole Wheat):  1 whole muffin is 3.7 grams

Okra:  1 cup fresh or cooked is 3.2 grams

Orange:  1 large is 2.4 grams

Parsnip:  1 large cooked is 2.8 grams

Peach:  1 medium is 2.3 grams

Pear:  1 medium is 4.0 grams

Puffed Wheat Cereal:  1 cup is 3.3 grams

Pumpernickel Bread:  2 slices are 4.0 grams

Rice (White):  ½ cup before cooking is 2.0 grams

Strawberries:  1 cup is 3.0 grams

Turnip:  ½ cup cooked is 2.0 grams

Watermelon:  1 thick slice is 2.8 grams

Wheaties Cereal:  1 cup is 2.0 grams

Zucchini:  ½ cup raw or cooked is 3.0 grams


4.1 to 6 grams of fiber per serving:

Apple:  1 large raw is 4.5 grams

Artichokes:  1 large is 4.5 grams

Beets:  1 cup cooked is 5.0 grams

Blackberries:  ½ cup is 4.4 grams

Bran Flakes Cereal:  1 cup is 5.0 grams

Bran Flakes with Raisins Cereal:  1 cup is 6.0 grams

Bran Meal:  3 tablespoons are 6 grams

Dark Rye Bread:  2 slices are 5.8 grams

Flatout Wraps:  1 wrap has 5 grams of fiber or more

Green Beans (Snap):  1 cup is 4.2 grams

Idaho Baked Potato:  1 medium with skin is 5.0 grams

Macaroni (Whole Wheat):  1 cup cooked is 5.7 grams

Mashed Potato:  1 cup is 6.0 grams

Noodles (Whole Wheat Egg):  1 cup cooked is 5.7 grams

Raspberries:  ½ cup is 4.6 grams

Rice (Brown):  ½ cup before cooking is 5.5 grams

Sauerkraut (Canned):  1 cup is 4.6 grams

Seven-Grain Bread:  2 slices are 6.5 grams

Shredded Wheat (Spoon Sized):  1 cup is 4.4 grams

Spaghetti (Whole Wheat):  1 cup cooked is 5.6 grams

Sweet Potato:  1 medium is 5.5 grams

Whole Wheat Bread:  2 slices are 6.0 grams

Whole Wheat Raisin Bread:  2 slices are 6.5 grams


6.1 to 10 grams of fiber per serving:

Bran Chex Cereal:  1 cup is 7.5 grams

Buckwheat Groats (Kasha):  1 cup cooked is 9.6 grams

Cracklin’ Bran Cereal:  1 cup is 8 grams

Fruit N’ Fiber Cereal:  1 cup is 7 grams

Greens (Collards, Beet Greens, Kale, Turnip Greens):  1 cup cooked is 8.0 grams

High-Bran “Health” Bread:  2 slices are 7.0 grams

Lentils:  1 cup cooked is 6.4 grams

Nabisco 100% Bran Cereal:  1 cup is 8.0 grams

Peas (Green):  1 cup is 7 grams

Rutabaga (Yellow Turnip):  1 cup is 6.4 grams

Yams:  1 medium is 6.8 grams


10.1 and above grams of fiber per serving:

All Bran Cereal:  ½ cup is 10.4 grams

Baked Beans:  1 cup is 16 grams

Black Beans:  1 cup cooked is 14 grams

Bran Buds Cereal:  ½ cup is 10.4 grams

Chickpeas (Garbanzos):  1 cup cooked is 12 grams

Figs:  3 dried are 10.5 grams

Great Northern Beans:  1 cup is 16 grams

Kidney Beans:  1 cup cooked is 19.4 grams

Lima Beans:  1 cup canned or cooked is 11.6 grams

Navy Beans:  1 cup cooked is 18 grams

Oatmeal Cereal:  1 cup is 10.3 grams

Pinto Beans:  1 cup cooked is 18.8 grams

Spinach:  1 cup cooked is 14 grams

Split Peas:  1 cup cooked is 13.4 grams

White Beans:  1 cup canned or cooked is 16 grams 

This guide will give you a good start in finding foods that will help you increase your fiber intake. However, due to its complexity, laboratory technicians have not yet been able to ascertain the exact fiber content of many foods.  Because of this, you may find discrepancies from one source to another.  Add to the fact that there are varying sizes of fruits and vegetable, as well as growing conditions, and you can begin to understand why there might be some variations in the number of grams of fiber listed for different food items.    

Together we can work to save a million lives! 

Dan Hammer 

The information contained in this blog is for general information purposes only and never as a substitute for professional medical advice or medical exam.  The information contain in this blogging website has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration and should not be used to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease without the supervision of a qualified medical doctor.

Fiber and Cholesterol Reduction!

Lady and AppleCholesterol reduction through the use of statin drugs has become a big and profitable business for the pharmaceutical industry.  As more and more people have opted for a pill to help control their cholesterol levels fewer people are using fiber as their first line of defense.  If you read my blog post“Cholesterol and Statin Drugs – Happily Married or Headed for Divorce?”[/intlink] you know that these types of drugs are not without risks.   

So why has the use of fiber declined?  For most people compliance is the issue!

This post will provide you with 3 effective steps that can help increase your fiber intake to help in cholesterol reduction!   

Background Information!

According to the American Heart Association, cholesterol levels[/intlink] are a major risk factor for the cardiovascular disease atherosclerosis which increases the risk for heart attacks and stroke.  The main contributing factor to this problem is LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol which is commonly called “BAD” cholesterol.  Over 100 million Americans have cholesterol levels that exceed the recommended level with 20 percent of these considered in the high category.  

Soluble fiber has been clinically shown to reduce LDL cholesterol.  The typical American diet has somewhere between 5-14 grams of dietary fiber per day.  In 2002, the Food and Nutrition Board of the National Academy of Sciences Research Council issued Dietary Reference Intakes (DRI) for fiber.  For males between the ages of 19-50 it is 38 grams of fiber per day.  For women in the same age category it is 25 grams of fiber per day.  If your age is greater than 50, then the amount of fiber decreases to 30 grams for men and 21 grams for women.  At best the typical American is only getting 50% of the needed fiber in their diet.   

What is Dietary Fiber?

Dietary fiber is found only in plant foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole-grain breads and cereals, nuts, and legumes (dried beans, lentils and peas).  Although there are several forms of fiber, they are usually classified into two groups: 

  • Soluble fiber can dissolve in water to form a gel-like substance in the digestive tract.  This soluble fiber is beneficial in lowering the “BAD” cholesterol.  Clinical studies have shown that diets containing 10 to 25 grams of soluble fiber per day can lower LDL cholesterol by 18%.  Sources of good soluble fiber include oats, peas, beans, apples, and citrus fruits.  Typically one serving of any of these foods will provide about one to three grams of soluble fiber.
  • Insoluble fiber cannot dissolve in water so it passes through the digestive tract relatively unchanged.  This insoluble fiber helps to make your stools softer and bulkier and speeds elimination.  Sources of insoluble fiber would include whole-grain foods, wheat bran, most vegetables and fruit with skin.  

Typically, canned and frozen fruits and vegetables contain just as much fiber as raw ones.  However, some types of refining processes may reduce the fiber content.  Current food labeling requires the amount of dietary fiber to be listed.  It is listed just below the “Total Carbohydrate” portion of the Nutrition Facts section of the product label.  For a manufacturer to make fiber claims it must meet the following guidelines: 

  • High Fiber:  5 grams or more per serving
  • Good Source of Fiber:  2.5 – 4.9 grams per serving
  • More or Added Fiber:  At least 2.5 grams more per serving than the reference food  

How Fiber Decreases Cholesterol Naturally!

One of the ways the body eliminates cholesterol is through the excretion of bile acids.  Water-soluble fiber such as pectin and fiber found in rolled oats helps to bind these bile acids so that they are not reabsorbed in the intestines.  This forces the liver to make new bile salts.  To do so the liver increases its production of LDL receptors.  These receptors then pull LDL cholesterol out of the bloodstream.  The more bile salts the liver has to make the greater the amount of LDL cholesterol pulled from the blood.  By increasing your fiber intake you increase the amount of fiber available to bind these bile acids to speed this natural cholesterol reduction method.  

Soluble fiber also seems to have a secondary method for cholesterol reduction.  Although this method is not completely understood it seems that the fermentation of soluble fiber in the large intestines produces several short-chain fatty acids.  One of these fatty acids will travel to your liver to tell it to produce less cholesterol.  

3 Simple Steps to Increasing Your Fiber Intake!

When most people hear the concept of increasing their fiber intake they immediately think about eating multigrain breads and a lot of lettuce.  This is not what their culinary taste buds are going to get excited about.  Plus, it’s not the most effective way to increase your fiber intake.  

The following 3 steps are realistic so that everyone can achieve the goal of increased fiber intake and be able to do it long term.  These steps will help improve your overall health and have the potential to be an effective strategy for cholesterol reduction. 

Step 1- Examine Your Diet.  You like bread, cereal, pasta, rice, and maybe a vegetable.  By making some simple changes you could drastically increase your fiber intake while still enjoying your same meals. 

  • Bread:  1 slice of white bread has .6 grams of fiber where as 1 slice of whole-wheat bread has 1.9 grams of fiber.  Figuring two slices of bread for your sandwich, you just increased your fiber intake from 1.2 grams to 3.8 grams.  For a creative change to the normal sandwich try Flatout Wraps.  Their Harvest Wheat has 5 grams of fiber per wrap and some of their wraps can go as high as 9 grams of fiber.  Go to for recipes and store locations.
  • Cereal:  Maybe you’re a Wheaties type of person which has 2 grams of fiber per 1 cup serving.  By switching to 100% All Bran you just increased you fiber intake to 17.6 grams of fiber.  Too much fiber and not enough taste than try Raisin Bran at 5 grams per 1 cup serving. 
  • Pasta:  1 cup of uncooked pasta typically has 2 grams of fiber.  Switching to 1 cup of Barilla PLUS pasta and your fiber intake increased to 7 grams of fiber.  Add a ½ cup of tomato sauce on top and you added another 3 grams of fiber.  What would have been a “5 grams of fiber” meal has now become “10 grams of fiber” with no loss in taste.  For more information about recipes and store locations go to .
  • Rice:  1 cup of cooked white rice is 2 grams of fiber.  Switching to 1 cup of cooked brown rice and you’re at 5.5 grams of fiber. 
  • Vegetable:  Some people think they need to add broccoli or cauliflower to their meal to increase their fiber and it turns them off.  Broccoli has 3.0 grams of fiber per cup, cauliflower only has 2.5 grams of fiber per cup.  Switching to 1 cup of corn gives you 4.0 grams of fiber, 1 cup of green beans is 4.2 grams of fiber, and 1 cup of peas is 7.0 grams of fiber.  Instead of having a salad which has 1 cup of iceberg lettuce at .7 grams of fiber you could skip the salad and add a vegetable that gives you 8 times the value in fiber. 

Step 2- Add Fiber.  There are a couple of simple ways to add fiber to your daily intake of food without adding loads of calories.  This helps control your weight which can also be a factor in cholesterol reduction. 

  • Breakfast:  A medium banana added to the top of your cereal is 3 grams of fiber.  A cup of strawberries, blueberries, or raspberries would range from 3.3 to 4.5 grams of fiber.   
  • Snack:  Instead of going to the vending machine for a candy bar or bag of chips why not eat a medium pear at 88 calories and 5 grams of fiber or a large apple at 90 calories and 4.5 grams of fiber.   
  • Meal:  Maybe it’s time to try some new additions to your meal like 1 cup of lentils or black beans at 15 grams of fiber, baked beans at 10.4 grams of fiber, 1 medium baked potato with the skin at 5.0 grams of fiber, or a sweet potato without the skin at 5.5 grams of fiber. 

By incorporating some of the changes and additions we’ve looked at you could see the following improvements in your overall fiber intake: 

  • A breakfast of cereal and toast could go from 1 to 3 grams of fiber to 9 to 21 grams of fiber. 
  • A mid-morning snack could go from 1 gram of fiber to 4 to 5 grams of fiber. 
  • A sandwich at lunch could go from 1 to 3 grams of fiber to 4 to 15 grams of fiber. 
  • A mid-afternoon snack could go from 1 gram of fiber to 4 to 5 grams of fiber. 
  • A dinner meal could go from 5 to 7 grams of fiber to 9 to 15 grams of fiber.  

Just by making some simple changes in your food selection you could go from 9-15 grams of fiber to 30-61 grams of fiber.  Just think of the impact this would have on your overall health while you are reducing your LDL cholesterol.   

Step 3 – Take a Supplement.  There is some controversy in the use of fiber supplements so I add this step with caution.  If you are not willing to make the simple changes I have outlined in Steps 1 & 2, then talk with a qualified physician who can give you some guidance in this area.  Typically, one tablespoon of an over-the-counter fiber supplement has 15 grams of fiber.  Most people take their supplement at night after their evening meal.  

Supplements are not meant to be used as a laxative which is where most of the controversy occurs.  They are only meant to be used as a supplement for those who are not getting the proper amount of fiber from their diet.

Two Important Notes!

Proper water intake is fundamental to this whole process of fiber intake.  On the one hand, fiber can be extremely useful in preventing constipation.  But, fiber taken in the absence of adequate water intake can also be binding to cause severe constipation.  Proper water intake is the number one key to improving your overall health and wellness.

Due to its complexity, laboratory technicians have not yet been able to ascertain the exact fiber content of many foods.  Because of this, you may find discrepancies from one fiber source to another.  Add to the fact that there are varying sizes of fruits and vegetable, as well as growing conditions, and you can begin to understand why there might be some variations in the number of grams of fiber listed for different food items. 

If you are not use to eating high fiber foods then make your changes gradually to allow your body to adjust.  Anyone with a chronic disease should always consult their physician first before they alter their diet. 

As you can see, increasing your fiber intake can have a positive effect on cholesterol reduction.  With guidance, and using some simple steps to incorporate more fiber into your diet, you can get Randy from American Idol to say, “It’s the Bomb, Baby!” 

Together we can work to save a million lives!

Dan Hammer

The information contained in this blog is for general information purposes only and never as a substitute for professional medical advice or medical exam.  The information contain in this blogging website has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration and should not be used to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease without the supervision of a qualified medical doctor.