Along with maintaining control of blood sugar levels, diabetics share another common health concern — dyslipidemia. This condition is characterized by having too little HDL, the good cholesterol in your body, or too much LDL, the bad cholesterol.

For many, niacin (a vitamin B supplement) is the key to keeping cholesterol levels steady. This supplement helps turn carbohydrates into energy, increasing HDL levels. And HDL, in turn, sweeps up the bad cholesterol. But high doses of niacin can worsen glycemic control. However, new studies have found that low doses of niacin offer a safe, effective treatment for diabetics with cholesterol imbalance.

Do niacin supplements work for everyone?

At the University of Texas, researchers tested the safety of low-dose, extended release niacin in diabetics with dyslipidemia. Among the 148 participants (roughly split into thirds—a high-dose group, a low-dose group, and a placebo group), those in the low-dose group experienced an increase in HDL levels and a decrease in triglycerides with minimal side effects.

However, in a separate study, the Department of Veterans Affairs observed that niacin increases blood glucose levels for obese patients. The more obese the patient was, the more likely their fasting glucose levels were to reach diabetic range. Duke University researchers found similar results for newly diagnosed diabetic patients who underwent niacin therapy. Among these patients, though, fasting glucose levels typically declined on their own in the weeks following the initial niacin treatment.

What About Dietary Options?

While low-dose niacin may treat dyslipidemia effectively for some diabetics, be sure to talk to your doctor before starting a supplement regimen. Modifying your diet to include niacin-rich foods can also help. Good sources of niacin include:

• Bran (wheat and corn)
• Fish (anchovies, tuna, and swordfish)
• Paprika
• Peanuts
• Sun-dried tomatoes