What are the Pros and Cons of Timed Release Niacin?

Malcolm Tatum

Timed release niacin is a type of over-the-counter and prescription strength product that is used to treat issues with high cholesterol and triglycerides in the bloodstream. From this perspective, taking this type of supplement can make a difference in regulating blood pressure and reducing the risk of experiencing a heart attack. While very effective, there are a few pros and cons connected with the use of timed release niacin that should be considered.

Timed release niacin is used to treat high cholesterol and triglycerides.
Timed release niacin is used to treat high cholesterol and triglycerides.

The main benefit of timed release niacin is that this important nutrient is incrementally released in the bloodstream throughout an extended period of time. For many people, this controlled release means that there is no incidence of the flushing and heat that often comes from taking a dose of regular nicacin. The ongoing presence of the niacin also helps to begin breaking down cholesterol, making it possible to restore balance to the composition of the blood, lower the chances of clogging vital arteries, and placing additional stress on the heart. Many people also prefer to use extended release niacin as an alternative to other types of anti-cholesterol medicine, simply because the product does make use of something they consider a natural substance, vitamin B3.

Side effects of niacin include stomach discomfort.
Side effects of niacin include stomach discomfort.

There are some potential drawbacks associated with timed release niacin. While the product is much less likely to cause flushing, some people do experience this phenomenon. Doctors sometimes recommend taking an aspirin roughly a half-hour before the niacin when the individual is prone to the flushing. In addition, some people find that the extended release versions of niacin may cause some stomach discomfort. Many physicians recommend taking prescription strength niacin products of this type a few hours before bedtime, since the product can work while the patient sleeps. Some patients report that the niacin helps them gain a more recuperative rest, while others note that use of the prescription version tends to keep them awake.

As with most prescription medications and nutritional supplements, individuals may react differently when taking any form of timed release niacin. It is important to note any side effects of niacin to a physician immediately. In some cases, changing the dosage will make it possible to still enjoy the benefits without experiencing any type of discomfort. An alternative to discuss with the physician is moving away from a timed released version and using a basic nicotinic acid two or three times daily, if the individual does not mind the flushing that is highly likely to occur. At other times, it may be necessary to go with some other medication for reducing cholesterol and triglyceride levels, especially if discomfort from the niacin product cannot be avoided.

Time release niacin may be used to regulate blood pressure.
Time release niacin may be used to regulate blood pressure.

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Discussion Comments


Timed-release niacin also has a higher incidence of adverse effects on the liver. Niacin is metabolized by two pathways that operate concurrently.

A saturable pathway in the liver metabolizes niacin, but only in small quantities. A non-saturable pathway occurs peripherally and results in an intense flushing effect. In other words, immediate-release niacin is metabolized fairly quickly through the peripheral pathway, and is cleared from the system rapidly. Sustained- or extended-release niacin is released slowly enough so that in addition to the peripheral pathway, the liver metabolizes more over a longer of time.

However, exposing the liver to sustained levels of niacin leads to a greater effect on the liver.

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