By: Kennedy Shelley
The AIM-HIGH study was stopped early because the participants were having strokes.
The study was unfortunate in that it put a bunch of high-risk people in it. Basically, when you have a bunch of overweight diabetics in your study, you are going to have strokes unless you change that underlying condition.
This study did not seek to reduce insulin or make any other lifestyle changes.
The point was simply to see if the addition of niacin would affect blood pressure and cholesterol.
The interim data suggested that those who were selected for the high niacin group were at risk of having a stroke, so they called the study off.
The full study name was: Atherothrombosis Intervention in Metabolic Syndrome With Low HDL/High Triglycerides (AIM-HIGH).
Unfortunately, it received a great deal of publicity and many cardiologists used it to say “see, niacin doesn’t do any good, so let’s focus on statins.”
And that may be the wrong conclusion. Instead, they should have realized that “you know you can’t supplement your way out of a bad diet and lifestyle.”
To make matters even murkier, most of the participants in the study were already taking statin drugs before adding niacin.
It’s tough to get people to take niacin because it causes a tingly flush. When you take a high dose, you will feel your face get hot and tingly. It is a very distinct sensation and that makes many stay away from it.
WHY TAKE NIACIN?
Well, first of all, we all need it. Vitamin B3 is in every cell of your body.
It’s water-soluble, so your body doesn’t store it when you have too much.
When you don’t have enough, you get confused and tired. But B3 defense isn’t a huge problem for most in the developed world.
The extreme form of B3 deficiency causes severe skin disorders that are easily noticed.
Why were scientists studying it? Because it reduces the bad cholesterol (LDL), as well as the most dangerous form of cholesterol (triglycerides) while increasing the so-called good (HDL). Statins can only reduce your liver’s production of LDL.
In 2004 the Journal of the American Medical Association reported that niacin reduced triglycerides by 20-50%. That may significantly help lower your risk of stroke and heart attack.
It also helps some people think clearer and improves the condition of their skin.
AIM-HIGH AND STILL MISS THE MARK
So, while we have statin drugs to help people who want to lower their HDL, there is no pill that will lower dangerous triglycerides. The only way to do this is by reducing carbs and sugar.
The American Heart Association has been preaching “low-fat diets” for so long they often neglect to mention that carbs that increase insulin production affect the liver’s production of dangerous cholesterols.
It does seem counter-intuitive that drinking a sugary drink would increase fat in the bloodstream, but that’s what happens.
As expected in the two years the trial went on, those receiving the full dose of niacin did have their triglycerides drop and their good cholesterol went up.
But this was not a study that showed “niacin does better or worse than a placebo.” Because of all the variables built into the study, at best this very expensive trial didn’t really show anything.
But the unfortunate effect may be to get people to quit looking at niacin as a great natural way to avoid statin drugs to help maintain healthy blood fats.
Niacin remains the only effective way to increase good HDL cholesterol known to medicine.
Just because AIM-HIGH ended up shooting low does not mean you should ignore the benefits of niacin.