New research finds a hidden cause of heart disease

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Researchers at the Cleveland Clinic have made a big discovery in the study of heart disease, pinpointing a new factor that could be contributing to cardiovascular issues.

The focus of their research is niacin, also known as vitamin B-3, a nutrient that’s commonly found in the Western diet and has been long recommended for its cholesterol-lowering benefits.

Led by Dr. Stanley Hazen, the team uncovered that a byproduct of too much niacin, named 4PY, is linked to an increased risk of heart attacks, strokes, and other heart-related problems.

Through their studies, they found that people with higher levels of 4PY in their blood were more likely to experience these adverse cardiovascular events.

This connection was made through extensive clinical studies and further supported by preclinical trials showing how 4PY directly leads to inflammation in the blood vessels.

This inflammation is harmful because it can damage the vessels, making them more prone to atherosclerosis, a condition where plaque builds up inside the arteries.

This groundbreaking study, published in Nature Medicine, not only highlights the relationship between 4PY and vascular inflammation but also points out genetic factors that contribute to this issue.

The findings open up new possibilities for creating treatments aimed at reducing or preventing this inflammation, marking a step forward in the fight against cardiovascular disease.

Dr. Hazen, who heads the Cardiovascular and Metabolic Sciences at Cleveland Clinic’s Lerner Research Institute, expressed excitement over these findings.

According to him, this pathway of disease development was previously unrecognized but now shows to be a critical element in understanding heart disease.

He also mentioned the potential for diagnostic tests to measure 4PY levels, which could lead to new strategies for counteracting its harmful effects.

Interestingly, niacin is a staple in many diets due to fortification mandates in the U.S. and over 50 other countries, aimed at preventing nutritional deficiencies.

However, this study suggests that a significant portion of the population may be consuming too much niacin, leading to elevated 4PY levels and an increased risk of heart disease.

Dr. Hazen likens our niacin intake to water filling a bucket to the point of overflowing; once the body cannot process any more niacin, it starts to produce 4PY as a byproduct.

Dr. Hazen’s advice is not to eliminate niacin completely from our diets but to consider the implications of excessive intake.

He calls for a reevaluation of the necessity for widespread niacin fortification and advises against the indiscriminate use of niacin supplements, advocating instead for a balanced diet rich in fruits and vegetables.

The findings also shed light on the puzzling aspect of niacin’s role in cholesterol management.

Niacin was once a favored treatment for lowering “bad” LDL cholesterol but has fallen out of favor compared to other medications due to its less-than-expected benefits and potential for adverse effects.

Dr. Hazen believes that the discovery of 4PY’s role helps explain why niacin didn’t live up to its promise in lowering heart disease risk despite reducing cholesterol levels.

This research is part of a larger effort by Dr. Hazen and his team to explore factors contributing to residual cardiovascular risk.

By tracking patients over time and analyzing blood samples for chemical markers, they aim to uncover new insights into heart disease, building on Dr. Hazen’s previous discoveries linking gut microbial pathways to cardiovascular and metabolic diseases.

The study underscores the importance of continued investigation into the less understood aspects of heart disease, offering hope for new interventions to combat this leading cause of death worldwide.

If you care about heart disease, please read studies that herbal supplements could harm your heart rhythm, and how eating eggs can help reduce heart disease risk.

For more information about heart health, please see recent studies that apple juice could benefit your heart health, and results showing yogurt may help lower the death risks in heart disease.

The research findings can be found in Nature Medicine.

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