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THESE Vitamins Help Cholesterol

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Vitamins are all-purpose micronutrients that are essential for the normal functioning of the body. Therefore, vitamin deficiencies can severely impair different biological processes including the absorption, metabolism and synthesis of cholesterol in the body. While vitamins are generally not recommended as the primary drug/supplement for lowering cholesterol, they can definitely help and niacin is regarded as the most effective supplement for raising “good” cholesterol. What other vitamins besides niacin can help your blood cholesterol? Read on to find out.

Clearly, vitamins are essential for general health and they have been shown to be necessary for cardiovascular health. However, not all studies done to investigate the effect of vitamins on the risks of cardiovascular diseases are positive.

From a review of past studies, it is clear that the vitamins sourced from foods perform better than vitamin supplements. This is because food represents a steady, long-term vitamin source while supplements are usually taken for short periods of time.

Even then, supplements are needed as secondary sources of these vitamins. There are also useful when it is necessary to rapidly increase the levels of these micronutrients and reverse nutritional deficiencies that may be detrimental to cardiovascular health.

A quick review of past studies shows that antioxidant vitamins are the most vitamins to cardiovascular health. They mop up harmful free radicals that react negatively with lipoproteins and cholesterol.

By this means, antioxidant vitamins prevent the appearances of fatty lesions on the walls of blood vessels and, therefore, reduce the risks of atherosclerosis and heart attack.

However, vitamins do more than only provide antioxidant protection in the cardiovascular system. Some vitamins have been proven to lower blood cholesterol and improve lipid profile.

Discussed below are the vitamins that affect blood cholesterol levels.


Niacin or vitamin B3 is one of the most important vitamins and its deficiency can severely affect different metabolic processes and systems in the body.

Niacin is also the most important vitamin for improving the lipid profile. Besides its effect on cholesterol level, niacin is required for carbohydrate metabolism. It is also needed for the normal functioning of the nervous and digestive systems as well as the skin, hair, and eyes.

Multiple studies have confirmed that niacin can raise the level of HDL (high-density lipoprotein or “good”) cholesterol. The results of these studies show that niacin increases HDL cholesterol levels by 15 – 25%.

In fact, the Mayo Clinic considers niacin as the most effective drug/supplement for raising HDL cholesterol.

Besides its effect on HDL cholesterol, niacin also lowers blood LDL (low-density lipoprotein or “bad”) cholesterol as well as triglycerides. To reduce the amount of LDL cholesterol and triglycerides in the blood, niacin blocks the breakdown of stored fat. This action reduces the amount of VLDL (very low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol and LDL cholesterol produced in the liver.

The combination of these effects on lipoprotein cholesterol and triglycerides can significantly reduce the risk of heart disease.

Niacin Supplements

Although niacin is commonly found in foods, niacin supplements can also help prevent vitamin B3 deficiency. More importantly, high-dose niacin supplements can be used to treat hypercholesterolemia.

Niacin can be presented either in multivitamin supplements or sold alone as a niacin supplement.

The 2 bioactive forms of niacin mostly found in supplements are nicotinic acid and nicotinamide. Only nicotinic acid affects blood cholesterol levels. Therefore, make sure to avoid the nicotinamide supplements when taking niacin for lowering blood cholesterol.

Although nicotinic acid is effective for treating hypercholesterolemia, it produces uncomfortable side effects such as itching, hot flashes, and flushing.

To avoid these side effects, a specially formulated niacin supplement known as no-flush niacin is sold.

No-flush or flush-free niacin is also known as inositol hexanicotinate. It is formulated from nicotinic acid and inositol. Ideally, flush-free niacin should slowly release niacin and produce a sustained cholesterol-lowering effect.

However, studies show no-flush niacin does not lower blood cholesterol levels because the inositol hexanicotinate molecule does not release its niacin in appreciable amounts.

Other delayed-release niacin supplements are sold. A good example of such new niacin is wax-matrix extended-release niacin. It is effective and does not cause flushing.

Other B Vitamins

The other B vitamins that can help cholesterol are vitamins B6 (pyridoxine), B9 (folic acid) and B12 (cyanocobalamin).

These B vitamins are also important to general health but unlike niacin, they do not affect the levels of total cholesterol, lipoprotein cholesterol or triglycerides. Instead, they protect lipoprotein cholesterol from oxidation.

Just as importantly, these 3 B vitamins share certain metabolic pathways that involve homocysteine.

Homocysteine is a toxic intermediate of amino acid syntheses. It accumulates when there is a deficiency of one or more of these 3 B vitamins.

Studies have shown that the accumulation of homocysteine can severely affect general health and increase the risk of heart diseases. This is because homocysteine oxidizes LDL cholesterol and lead to atherosclerosis or the thickening of arteries.

Therefore, these B vitamins can improve cardiovascular health by removing homocysteine from the body and reducing its interaction with lipoprotein cholesterol.


Inositol was once regarded as one of the B vitamins. However, it is really a carbohydrate with vitamin-like properties.

Although it is not an essential nutrient, inositol is involved in signal conduction in the nerves, serotonin activity, insulin secretion, fat metabolism and also cholesterol utilization.

Besides lowering blood cholesterol, inositol is a lipotropic agent. This means that it keeps fat solubilized and prevents it from accumulating in the liver. This reduces the production and release of cholesterol from the liver.

In addition, the lipotropic property of inositol can prevent the deposition of fats and cholesterol on arteries by keeping them liquefied.

As a cholesterol-lowering agent, the myo form of inositol is the most effective. Studies show that it can significantly raise HDL cholesterol levels while reducing LDL cholesterol and triglyceride levels.  


Carotenoids are a group of plant-derived phytochemicals that are converted to retinol, the active form of vitamin A. They are responsible for the colors of various fruits and vegetables including carrots, mangos, oranges, spinach, kale, and broccoli.

Common examples of carotenoids include zeaxanthin, lutein, lycopene and beta carotene.

Carotenoids are antioxidants. Therefore, they can help protect LDL cholesterol from oxidation and reduce the risks of atherosclerosis and heart disease.

However, the benefits of carotenoids for reducing the risk of heart disease is still up for debate. Large, well-designed studies indicate that high doses of carotenoids may actually increase this risk. However, the evidence also suggests that long-term supplementation of low-dose carotenoids or vitamin A may help improve cardiovascular health by inhibiting the oxidation of LDL cholesterol.

Therefore, high doses of vitamin A or carotenoid supplements are not recommended in the treatment of hypercholesterolemia.

Vitamin C

Like the carotenoids, vitamin C is recommended because of its antioxidant properties.

Therefore, vitamin C can inhibit the oxidation of LDL cholesterol and reduce the risks of atherosclerosis and heart attack.

However, the results of clinical trials investigating the benefits of vitamin C supplementation on blood cholesterol are conflicting. In one review of past studies, 3 out of 5 trials concluded that vitamin C did not affect cholesterol levels. However, another review of 9 studies showed that vitamin C reduced the risk of heart disease by 24%.

Experts recommend combining niacin with vitamin C to achieve better control of blood cholesterol and to significantly reduce the risk of atherosclerosis.

Unlike drugs, the effects of vitamins take longer to act. Most studies that have failed to find a positive link between vitamin C supplementation and low blood cholesterol are usually short. Therefore, experts suggest that the combination of niacin and vitamin C should be continued for at least 3 months before its effectiveness is judged.





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