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May 2024
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Niacin Zings Zetia

Niacin Shown to be More Effective than Zetia at Lowering Cholesterol

The cholesterol-lowering drug Zetia may need a new description:  Researchers find the B vitamin niacin to be more effective.

The cholesterol-lowering drug Zetia may need a new description: Researchers find the B vitamin niacin to be more effective.

As any practitioner of natural medicine can attest, natural medicine is often shoved aside as a “pseudo-science.”  Natural herbs, nutrients and supplements may be beneficial for the body, sure, but only pharmaceuticals can reverse heart disease or lower cholesterol they say.

Well truth be told, their assertions hold at least a kernel’s worth of truth.  I say that because just about everyone knows of at least one occasion in which a cholesterol-lowering drug has worked.  The same generalization can’t be said for natural medicine, only because all-natural medicine is not as widely practiced as traditional medicine is.

And while that trend may not change any time soon, a trend that may change— and if it doesn’t it OUGHT to—is the notion that traditional medicine supersedes natural medicine’s effectiveness.  It couldn’t be said before, but it most certainly can’t be said now.

Publishing their results in the New England Journal of Medicine and presenting their findings to the American Heart Association last Sunday, researchers from the Lipid/Prevention Clinic in Washington, D.C. report that niacin is more effective at lowering LDL cholesterol levels than the cholesterol-lowering drug Zetia, better at reducing plaque build-up than Zetia, and better at increasing HDL cholesterol levels Zetia.

At a news conference on Nov. 15, the study’s lead researcher, Dr. Allen Taylor, said to the assemblage of reporters that, “This trial provides a clear and undeniable (emphasis added) statement on the superior clinical effectiveness of niacin over ezetimibe.”  Ezetimibe is the actual name of Zetia, the drug that lowers cholesterol.

But as Taylor indicated in his comments to the press, Zetia’s reputation for lowering cholesterol has preceded it.

Over 14 months, when researchers analyzed and observed the 363 patients taking either a niacin prescription and a statin or Zetia for treatment, they found that those taking the niacin experienced fewer heart-related maladies (like heart attacks), and had an improved cholesterol profile (i.e. higher HDL count, lower LDL count).

Now, in the interest of full disclosure, the participants on the niacin also used statins, but you already know my stance on statins.  Besides, the researchers pointed to niacin as the true catalyst in lowering cholesterol.

Where this study may go off the rails for natural medicine adherents is the fact that the participants used a prescription kind of niacin rather than an over-the-counter niacin supplement.  Dr. Taylor said over-the-counter niacin’s “safety and efficacy are unknown,” thus was loath to suggest over-the-counter niacin is every bit as effective as prescription niacin.

But as the Mayo Clinic notes, niacin supplements have “long been used to increase high density lipoprotein” levels.  In fact, some studies have found niacin to increase HDL levels by as much as 35 percent!  And when used with statins, they’ve been known to increase HDL levels by 50 percent!

As always, you should consult your doctor before going off cholesterol-lowering (or should I say allegedly cholesterol-lowering) medications like Zetia.

Niacin is a natural vitamin that’s part of the B vitamin family.  It’s plentiful in whole grains and nuts, but it’s also replete in vegetables, particularly mushrooms (Crimini), asparagus spears, and romaine lettuce.  For protein, look no further than chicken breast (a four ounce breast has 72 percent of your recommended daily value) and yellow fin tuna.

If nothing else, this study shows that natural medicine is just what’s it’s always been cracked up to be by those of us who are so passionate about it:  Every bit as effective as traditional treatments, and in this case, even more so.


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