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What the Latest Niacin and Heart Disease Findings Mean for Supplement Manufacturers

Contributors: Tina Yauger

A recent study suggests the common water-soluble essential vitamin niacin, also known as vitamin B3, as a possible link to increased risk of heart disease, as it may cause inflammation and damage to blood vessels. In this piece, our consumer healthcare experts share their quick takeaways on the latest niacin and heart disease findings and how we expect this to impact supplement manufacturers and consumers moving forward. 

Niacin as a Supplement 

The study was performed on a small group of 4,200 participants – 1,200 of those being evaluated for heart disease and the remaining either have or are suspected of having heart disease. The researchers discovered the potential association of niacin and heart disease by looking at hundreds of fasting blood samples and found levels of 4YP, a breakdown substance of niacin, and confirmed high levels of 4YP were associated to adverse cardiac events, both in participants in the study and in mice. The findings of increased 4YP linked to higher niacin intake are measurable and could be a diagnostic assessment of cardiovascular health if research continues to find this link prevalent.   

More research will be needed across a larger participant group and span demographic groups before action is likely taken. Historically, a niacin deficiency has been known to cause pellagra – a fatal form of malnutrition – and in the 1940s, it was deemed necessary, and mandated, to include niacin in fortified or enriched goods such as flours, grains, oats, and cereals by the Federal Drug Administration (FDA). According to the National Institute of Health (NIH) and the FDA, the recommended daily intake of niacin changes based on age and sex, indicating an adult should be between 14 mg (female) and 16 mg (male), unless breastfeeding or pregnant. A serving of an animal-based food source provides 5-10 mg, where other niacin sourced foods provide 2-5 mg.  

A recent analysis of data from a 2015–2016 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) found the average intake of niacin from diet was 31.4mg (male) and 21.3mg (female). This data, as well as the study, indicates that there doesn’t seem to be a need for the average person to take supplements, as niacin recommended values are met or exceeded by eating a balanced diet. 

What Does This Mean for Supplement Manufacturers?  

Niacin is something our bodies need; therefore, eliminating niacin is not necessary, nor realistic. The data indicates there may not be a need for niacin in supplements, and excess niacin could have adverse health effects. Consequently, healthcare professionals may eventually recommend against niacin supplementation.  

Currently, niacin is found in many daily supplements on its own, or included in vision support vitamins, multi-vitamins, anti-aging vitamins, and B complex. As vitamins and supplements are not regulated by the FDA, these producers could be proactive with the outcome of the study and may look to remove niacin or decrease niacin amounts if additional research supports this. 

In addition, if the research continues to show this possible link, the current mandate of adding niacin to staple foods might be reevaluated by the FDA.  

What Does This Mean for Consumers? 

Consumers should note that eating a well-balanced and healthy diet would provide enough niacin to meet or exceed the recommended daily amount, especially with consuming fortified or enriched staple foods.  

Niacin supplements have gained popularity in different forms due to their antioxidant properties and potential anti-aging benefits. There may be certain circumstances that indicate a need for niacin supplements; however, most healthy people would likely not need any added outside of their regular diet. With any added supplement, it’s crucial to discuss it with a healthcare provider to ensure it’s right for you.  

Looking Ahead 

Our team will continue to monitor this research and its impact on the vitamin and supplement industry. If you’d like to chat more about the recent findings, connect with our team today. 


More Information on the Niacin Study: 

Niacin mandates are in place not just in the United States, but more than 50 nations have adopted a fortification to these staple foods. Niacin is found naturally in several foods such as animal-based foods, bananas, nuts, and seeds, as well as in many multivitamin supplements. Additionally, the body can convert tryptophan, a protein amino acid, into niacin.  

Niacin has also been used medically to treat high cardiovascular risk patients to lower low-density lipoprotein (LDL; bad cholesterol) and increase high-density lipoprotein (HDL; good cholesterol). Even with these changes to lipids, studies have shown it does not reduce the risk or occurrence of episodes of strokes and heart attacks, indicating the improvement of lipids has no significant effect for cardiovascular risk. 


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Tags: Consumer Healthcare Trends