Vitamin of the Week Part Two – Vitamin B3 – Niacin – Link to cholesterol

smorgasbord health

Earlier in the week I posted on Vitamin B3 – Niacin – and included reference to this nutrient’s effect on the balance of unhealthy and healthy cholesterol in our bodies.

Enzymes in the body are unique substances that speed up chemical reactions in the body. They are responsible for producing the energy we need, the breakdown of dietary fats, the production of certain hormones and cholesterol. In addition they are needed for the processing of genetic material (DNA) and the growth and healthy maturing of cells. B3 is essential for the efficiency of many of these enzymes.

One of the areas that B3 is used therapeutically is in the lowering of cholesterol. B3 actually lowers LDL (lousy cholesterol) and raises HDL (healthy cholesterol). In tests, supplemented B3 proved more effective than many of the normal cholesterol lowering drugs

First a little more about Cholesterol.

I respect and manage my cholesterol levels because without it there are certain vital functions in my body that would not happen. I am rather attached to my steroidal hormones including the sterol Vitamin D (thinks it’s a hormone) that keeps me happy in the winter and free of colds and flu and my bones strong by regulating calcium in my blood. Also in the production of cortisol (there when I need it) and DHEA, very important for my bone density now I am in my 60s; as well as helping keeping me young looking and remembering what happened yesterday!

I am also hoping that my cholesterol, which is very important for my eyesight, will prevent me from developing cataracts in my 70s and 80s. Cholesterol will help prevent me from developing dementia and keeping me active until a ripe old age

Cholesterol is not some demon substance that has invaded our bodies and is rampaging out of control through our blood stream, but essential to our fundamental health and wellbeing. There are a number of people who are genetically prone to cholesterol health issues and of course then medication may be the right decision, but it should never be something that is given to all over a certain age. Something that is often suggested for Statins which have known side-effects.

Those who follow a healthy and balanced diet without many industrially produced foods rarely have a cholesterol imbalance.

How can cholesterol cause a problem in the body?

I admit that I do use the term lousy cholesterol for low density lipoprotein– because this is the one form of cholesterol in our body that can get contaminated and cause health problems. Although when talking about cholesterol we refer to high density lipoprotein (healthy cholesterol) and very low density lipoproteins (not usually in substantial amounts) as well, they are all the same molecularly but have different packaging to be transported in the blood stream.

HDL and LDL sub-divide into different types of lipoproteins and at the moment more is still to be discovered about this. It is the LDL that is associated with the plaque that forms in the arteries leading to blockages.

LDL cholesterol does have a role in the body but has much smaller particles than HDL cholesterol and becomes unstable when it is oxidised – this is where the particles react with free radicals, produced through a number of activities including smoking and eating a diet high in white fat as found in industrially manufactured foods, crisps, pastries and cookies that contain high levels of refined sugars.

If the walls of the arteries are damaged in any way, the smaller and denser particles of the oxidised LDL can push their way through that break in the tissue and start clumping together to form the plaque; whilst the larger HDL particles would not gain purchase. This leads to coronary artery disease.


I think it is important to remember that our bodies have been evolving for a very long time – in a hundred thousand years our DNA will only have altered about ten times which means that we are physically very similar to our first ancestors. I have said before that the body does not react to sudden changes very well!

However, in the last 300 years and particularly the last 150 years since the industrial revolution we have thrown some curved balls at our bodies. Industrially produced foods with manufactured artificial ingredients is just one area where our nutritional needs are not being met – one of the others, which is the real demon in our diet, is refined sugars – addictive -available from birth to grave, within hand’s reach in shops, in our own fridges and store cupboards.

Add these to the laboratory constructed (ugly) fats to extend the sell by date on ready meals and other processed foods in our daily diet and it is no wonder our bodies are in melt down with increased health issues that lead to Heart disease, cancers and dementia.

Coming up tomorrow.

We must not cut fats out of our diet – they have an essential role to play in our health and without fats and cholesterol our bodies will be open to infections, poor function in areas such as the brain, heart, reproductive system and our eyesight.

Tomorrow I will post about the various forms of fats that are currently in our diet and which to enjoy and those to avoid.

It is however, important to make sure to include specific nutrients in your diet, including foods rich in Vitamin B3 which has a vital role in balancing the cholesterol in our diet. You can find out more here.

I hope you have found this of interest and of course as always welcome your feedback and if you can please share.. thanks Sally

©JustFoodFor Health 2009.