What side effects are associated with taking high doses of niacin?

High-dose niacin can cause stomach upset and make your skin flush or itch. More importantly, niacin can increase your risk of:

  • High blood sugar levels or type 2 diabetes
  • Infection
  • Liver damage
  • Stroke
  • Bleeding

Who might consider taking niacin?

In the past, it was thought that HDL levels would increase even more if niacin was added to cholesterol medications called statins, such as atorvastatin (Lipitor) and simvastatin (Zocor). But recent studies indicate that niacin provides little additional benefit when compared with statins alone, and may increase the risks of serious side effects.

Most doctors no longer recommend niacin for first line cholesterol control — except for people who can't tolerate statins. In those people, the benefits of niacin may outweigh the risk of potentially serious side effects.

What else can be done to increase HDL?

Lifestyle changes are helpful in boosting HDL:

  • Stop smoking if you're a smoker.
  • Eat a healthy diet.
  • Start an exercise program, with your doctor's OK.
April 15, 2017 See more In-depth