Slow-Release Niacin Proves Bioavailable, Beneficial for Lipids

February 20, 2013

Lonza's Niamax is a wax-matrix, extended-release niacin.

Researchers from the University of Minnesota have found Niamax, a slow-release niacin from Lonza (Basel, Switzerland), to be bioavailable and effective in improving fat profiles in people with high cholesterol. Niacin (vitamin B3) is frequently prescribed for cholesterol management.

After leading in with four weeks of a heart-healthy diet, 120 subjects were instructed to consume Niamax, inositol hexanicotinate (IHN), or placebo for six weeks. IHN is a popular “no-flush” form of niacin that doesn’t induce skin irritation (flushing), which some users experience from traditional niacin supplements.

By six weeks, the slow-release niacin was associated with lower total cholesterol (11%) and LDL cholesterol (18%), and higher HDL cholesterol (12%) compared to zero significant changes noted for IHN and placebo. As some subjects are sensitive to niacin, those who switched to a lower dose of Niamax still saw lipid improvements on par with the high dose.

A substudy on five subjects from each intervention group found that biomarkers of niacin absorption (nicotinuric acid, nicotinic acid, and nicotinamide) only rose with Niamax. This data influenced lead researcher Joseph Keenan, MD, to question the use of IHN supplements altogether.

“This study concluded that the nicotinic acid in IHN is not bio-available, and there’s no evidence that it reaches the therapeutic levels needed to alter lipids; therefore, it has no place in the management of high cholesterol,” said Keenan. “In fact, this study raises the ethical issue of whether IHN has any benefit at all even as a vitamin supplement.”

Illustrations of the effect of Niamax and IHN on niacin biomarkers are provided at the link above. The study is published in the Journal of Clinical Lipidology.