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Niacin: chemical forms, bioavailability, and health effects

Douglas MacKay, John Hathcock, Erminia Guarneri
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1753-4887.2012.00479.x 357-366 First published online: 1 June 2012


Elevated low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C) has been the main target of lipid-altering therapy to reduce cardiovascular risk associated with dyslipidemia. Residual cardiovascular risk remains, however, after achievement of goal LDL-C levels and is associated in part with other risk markers of cardiovascular disease, including low high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C), high lipoprotein a, and hypertriglyceridemia. Niacin is considered a valuable agent for therapy to modify high LDL-C as well as low HDL-C, high lipoprotein a, and hypertriglyceridemia. The forms of niacin available in the marketplace include unbound niacin, or free nicotinic acid (NA); extended-release NA, a form of NA that is released gradually over a period of time; inositol hexanicotinate, six molecules of NA covalently bonded to one molecule of inositol; and nicotinamide, or niacinamide, the amide form of NA, which is readily bioavailable. This review is designed to assist healthcare professionals in evaluating the form(s) of niacin best suited for a particular therapeutic goal. Further, it provides a literature-based evaluation of risk for NA, extended-release NA, inositol hexanicotinate, and nicotinamide.

  • adverse effects
  • bioavailability
  • inositol hexanicotinate
  • niacin
  • serum lipids
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