Vitamin Supplement May Raise Diabetes Risk – ‘Known Side Effect’

Type 2 diabetes is widely considered a lifelong condition that causes too much sugar in the blood. This is often caused by insulin resistance, which can lead to dangerous dysregulation of blood sugar levels if not well controlled. Genetics and lifestyle are the most important risk factors for diabetes, but some supplements have also been linked to the condition.

Niacin – vitamin B3 – has been shown to cause negative insulin metabolism, exacerbating glucose control and insulin sensitivity.

The British Medical Journal (BMJ) states: “One potentially important side effect of nicotinic acid is known to be an increase in glucose levels in diabetic patients.”

One analysis from the Coronary Drug Project showed that the effect may also be seen in people without the disease, potentially increasing the risk of developing diabetes.

In one meta-analysis, the BMJ reviewed 11 trials with more than 26,340 non-diabetic participants.

During the follow-up period of 3.6 years, approximately 1371 participants were diagnosed with diabetes.

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“Niacin therapy was associated with a relative risk of developing diabetes of 1.34,” the authors explained.

This equates to one additional case of diabetes for every 43 initially diabetic people who are treated for five years.

In other words, treating 43 non-diabetic patients with the supplement for five years would result in one additional case of diabetes.

The authors added: “Results were consistent regardless of whether participants received background statin therapy. […].”


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Other studies have also confirmed that deterioration in glucose control is significantly increased with nicotinic acid.

The HPS2-THRIVE study, for example, showed a 55 percent increase in severe glucose control disorders in diabetic patients.

Moreover, as a result, most of these patients required hospitalization.

However, the mechanisms behind the detrimental effects of niacin on blood sugar control and diabetes remain unclear.

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Niacin supplements are primarily known for their beneficial effects on lipid and lipoprotein metabolism.

In fact, the Mayo Clinic states that it can lower triglycerides by 25 percent and increase HDL cholesterol by more than 30 percent.

“Triglyceride levels greater than 150 milligrams per deciliter or 1.7 millimoles per liter (mmol/L) are associated with a higher risk of heart disease,” explains Health.

WebMD suggests that the supplement is generally safe “for everyone” when taken at a lower dose.

However, there may be risks associated with taking higher doses of niacin to treat medical conditions.

“For this reason, children and women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should not take niacin supplements in excess. […] unless recommended by a doctor.”

In fact, people of all ages are encouraged to discuss supplements with their doctor before adding them to their diet.

Some experts suggest this is even more important for older adults, as supplements may have unsafe interactions with prescription drugs.

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