Natural Foods Merchandiser

Cholesterol Article Should Have Discussed Niacin Therapy

To The Editor,

While reading the August issue of The Natural Foods Merchandiser, I was initially pleased to see the headline "Controlling Cholesterol Naturally: Dietary Supplements Help Optimize Lipid Profiles." The health risks associated with cholesterol and the benefits offered by dietary supplements is an important topic. Unfortunately, the article missed one of the very best opportunities to connect science and dietary supplements, information that can help your readers avoid cardiovascular disease and death.

The article correctly details the importance of HDL [high-density lipoprotein] cholesterol and how statin drugs have essentially no benefit on this good cholesterol. This is important because research indicates a person with low HDL can be at high risk of death and disease, even with low total cholesterol or LDL [low-density lipoprotein]. After this, the article falls critically short. The writer fails to make any HDL connection with the supplements mentioned and fails to mention one of the most clinically researched vitamin supplements for cholesterol: niacin as nicotinic acid.

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Marty Traynor Spencer, Editor
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Niacin is among the most investigated therapies for abnormal cholesterol and has proven itself time and again. The original research began in 1954 at the Mayo Clinic. In 1962, niacin was recognized for its benefits in reducing fatty acid and triglyceride profiles in humans. Based on the long-running Framingham Heart Study, niacin was declared a "first line therapy" in 1988 by the National Cholesterol Education Program, a division of the National Institute of Health. With its consistent benefit profile, niacin was used frequently as a control in the statin development trials conducted in the 1980s and 1990s. Niacin has been proven to be safe and uniquely effective at lowering LDL and triglycerides and raising HDL. Used both alone and in combination with other therapies, niacin improvements come in the range of 30 percent to 50 percent decreases in LDL and triglycerides and over 40 percent increases in HDL. A review in 2000 collected over 48 clinical trials (i.e., human trials) evaluating niacin and its benefits on cholesterol. There have been dozens more since reconfirming five decades of research. This science is not a secret!

I feel this article missed a tremendous opportunity to offer the readers of NFM valuable life-saving information. The evidence supporting the other ingredients highlighted is weak in comparison. I would also suggest the writer review the research on pantethine, a derivative of pantothenic acid (vitamin B5) that also raises HDL.

Keeping in mind the true goal is to reduce mortality through disease reduction, supplements can offer a safe, inexpensive and effective alternative to prescription drug therapies. Retail merchants and their customers need to be made aware of these alternatives and discuss them with their health care providers. Next time, I hope NFM highlights supplements that are better supported by science.

Dan Murray Associate Director, Nutrition Lonza Inc.

Natural Foods Merchandiser volume XXIV/number 10/p. 12

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