Flush-free niacin kills

Here, I re-post a conversation I've posted before, that of the scam product, "no-flush" niacin, also known as "flush-free" niacin.

I find this issue particularly bothersome, since I have a patient or two each and every week who forgets the explicit advice I gave them to avoid these scam products altogether. Despite costing more than conventional niacin, they exert no effect, beneficial or otherwise. Niacin--the real thing--exerts real and substantial beneficial effects. No-flush or flush-free does nothing except drain your wallet. I continue to marvel at the fact that supplement manufacturers persist in selling this product. Ironically, it commands a significant premium over other niacin forms.

They are outright scams that should be avoided altogether.

My former post, No-flush niacin kills:

Gwen was miserable and defeated.

No wonder. After a bypass operation failed just 12 months earlier with closure of 3 out of 4 bypass grafts, she has since undergone 9 heart catheterization procedures and received umpteen stents. She presented to me for an opinion on why she had such aggressive coronary disease (despite Lipitor).

No surprise, several new causes of heart disease were identified, including a very severe small LDL pattern: 100% of LDL particles were small.

Given her stormy procedural history, I urged Gwen to immediately drop all processed carbohydrates from her diet, including any food made from wheat or corn starch. (She and her husband were shocked by this, by the way, since she'd been urged repeatedly to increase her whole grains by the hospital dietitians.) I also urged her to begin to lose the 30 lbs of weight that she'd gained following the hospital dietitians' advice. She also added fish oil at a higher-than-usual dose.

I asked her to add niacin, among our most effective agents for reduction of small LDL particles, not to mention reduction of the likelihood of future cardiovascular events.

Although I instructed Gwen on where and how to obtain niacin, she went to a health food store and bought "no-flush niacin," or inositol hexaniacinate. She was curious why she experienced none of the hot flush I told her about.

When she came back to the office some weeks later to review her treatment program, she told me that chest pains had returned. On questioning her about what she had changed specifically, the problem became clear: She'd been taking no-flush niacin, rather than the Slo-Niacin I had recommended.

What is no-flush niacin? It is inositol hexaniacinate, a molecule that indeed carries six niacin molecules attached to an inositol backbone. Unfortunately, it exerts virtually no effect in humans. It is a scam. Though I love nutritional supplements in general, it pains me to know that supplement distributors and health food stores persist in selling this outright scam product that not only fails to exert any of the benefits of real niacin, it also puts people like Gwen in real danger because of its failure to provide the effects she needed.

So, if niacin saves lives, no-flush niacin in effect could kill you. Avoid this scam like the plague.

No-flush niacin does not work. Period.

Disclosure: I have no financial or other relationship with Upsher Smith, the manufacturer of Slo-Niacin.

Copyright 2008 William Davis, MD

Comments (12) -

  • JPB

    11/29/2008 4:15:00 PM |

    What is your opinion of "Nia-Span"?  My former doctor insisted that this "by prescription only" drug was the only way to take niacin.  The cost per month was virtually the same as for a statin.  (BTW, I declined this product and continued with regular niacin.)

  • Anna

    11/29/2008 4:31:00 PM |

    FYI: the Slo-Niacin link isn't working.

  • Zbig

    11/29/2008 11:02:00 PM |

    RDA for niacin is 18 mg/day - what is your opinion on that, sir?
    BTW, do you guys in the States just go to a pharmacy and buy niacin and D3 without a prescription?

  • Anonymous

    11/30/2008 6:37:00 AM |

    "Slo-Niacin" uses a "polygel" to delay release of the nicotinic acid.  I've been taking Carlson's "Niacin-Time" (also nicotinic acid) which uses brazil wax to delay release.

    The Carlson's product is about a third the price of the Slo-Niacin.

  • IggyDalrymple

    12/1/2008 1:13:00 AM |

    I've been taking regular (not no-flush) niacin for a few months.  Dr Davis recommends "Slo-Niacin" but I got sick from taking timed-release niacin back in the 80s and "Slo-Niacin" sounds suspiciously like "Timed-Release".  I should know in January when I have bloodwork, if the regular niacin helps.

  • Anonymous

    12/3/2008 9:26:00 PM |

    JPB: Niaspan releases over 6-8 hours and yes..it is prescription only. I substituted it for Endur-acin which is MUCH cheaper and non-prescription and also releases over 6-8 hours. No difference in my lipid profiles...just big savings in my pocket book.

    Zbig: 18mg is probably sufficient as a RDA, but in order to achieve the lipid lowering affects from Niacin, one has to take larger doses of 500mg or more from what I understand. And yes, we can buy many supplements like (high dose) niacin, vitamin D3 & even DHEA without a prescription here in the USA.

    Anonymous: I believe Carlson buys their "Niacin-Time" from Endur. I looked at the picture on the Carlson website and the tablets are the exact same shape as Endur-acin. Endur has been around since the late 1980's from what I understand. You can buy direct from Endur.

    IggyDalrmple: Here is a link to an excellent article about (time-release) Niacin written by Doctor Davis himself:


  • CindynHouston

    2/3/2009 5:15:00 AM |

    Hi, Id like to know what research supports flush free Niacin has no effect on the human body ?
    I had/have horrible heart palpitations after a heart attack, and after taking Flush Free Niacin 2 to 3 times daily, control them, while time released I tried did not .. and Im afraid to take regular Niacin being so unstable.  I take several other things as well now, but not at the beginning.  I have Late Stage Lyme which has its own set of causal factors as well as the typical ones, but if it has no effect on the human body .. it wouldnt work period.  So, I would guess ..  like all else one thing might work for some, another substance for another depending on what I wish they would narrow down to "Cause".  I still have high Blood pressure, some medications work for a week or two, then stop being effective.  Areas of the brain control heart beat .. I have no clue if this is the whats causing high blood pressure or not .. Lyme can go any where and do anything .. Ive had it since I was a child with mild symptoms until my immune system got a faulty in mid thirties when it became aggressive.  No Doctors know how to treat other than antibiotics, dont treat symptoms like really bad hypercoagulation (thick blood) caused by being exposed to bacteria etc for a long period of time and the immune system becoming over active .. 2002 I had an attack which took me out almost completely .. No heart or other doctor even tried to diagnose and gave me a "hearts fine" .. 3 yrs later I had an almost deadly heart attack.  All these yrs, almost 10 .. spent trying to find help, treating symptoms on my own, having no family and absolutely No life, except for trying to survive. (people with Lyme ramble) Though its good to know info.... Question still remains about Flush Free Niacin...

  • Anonymous

    8/25/2009 9:29:49 PM |

    "IHN is more effective than niacin in its hypocholesterolemic,
    antihypertensive and lipotropic effects"
    Welsh AL, Eade M. Inositol hexanicotinate for improved nicotinic acid therapy.
    Int Record Med 1961;174:9-15.

    "significant lipid-lowering effects of IHN at doses of 400 mg 3-4 times daily"
    Dorner V, Fischer FW. The influence of m-inositol hexanicotinate ester on the serum lipids and lipoproteins. Arzneim-Forsch 1961;11:110-113.

    Sommer H. Nicotinic acid levels in the blood and fibrinolysis under the influence of the hexanicotinic ester of m-inositol. Arzneim Forsch. 1975;15:1337

    "IHN was found to be more effective than niacin in reducing hypercholesterolemia"
    El-Enein AMA, Hafez YS, Salem H, Abdel M. The role of nicotinic acid and inositol hexaniacinate as anticholesterolemic and antilipemic agents.
    Nutr Reports Int 1983;28:899-911.

    "Derivatives of niacin have been examined for their ability to alter lipid levels as well as niacin. It would be advantageous if the niacin vasodilation (flush) were eliminated or removed. The main disadvantage of the niacin derivatives will be cost. Inositol hexanicotinate is an ester of inositol and niacin. In the body it is slowly hydrolyzed releasing both of these important nutrients. The ester is more effective than niacin in lowering cholesterol and triglyceride levels, Abou El-Enein, Hafez, Salem and Abdel (1983). I have used this compound, Linodil, available in Canada but not the U.S.A. (at the time this paper was written) for thirty years for patients who can not or will not tolerate the flush. It is very gentle, effective, and can be tolerated by almost every person who uses it."
    From: Niacin, Coronary Disease and Longevity by Abram Hoffer, M.D., Ph.D.

  • LynP

    11/16/2009 5:25:16 AM |

    Question:  at dinner took 500 mgm Slo-Niacin and within a few hrs had some stomach unpleasant...sensations might be the best description, then my glucose rose.  Fasting rose 25 pts (shock) and yesterday was marked with ravenous hunger and 15-20 pts higher glucose all day; today's fasting was still higher than usual.  Is this expected?  It's almost as if it is undoing the work of my 1500 mg metformin ER in reducing the production of sugar in the liver. This isn't going to wk with higher glucose.  Suggestions? Comments?
    6/25/09 labs: TRI-119, calc LDL-150, HDL-57, D-35, TSH-4.5, AIC-6.4. Taking 12.5 mg Maxzide, 4K IU D3.
    9/22/09 labs: TRI-145, calc LDL-147, HDL-60, D-41, TSH-5.5, AIC-6.5, ApoB-111. Taking 12.5 mg Maxzide, 8K IU D3.
    Doc put me on 25 mcg levothyroxine (don't think this is enough or I need Armour).

    I think my TRI is up from too much carb (eat super low, ate a bit more more berries over summer).  I think my LDL is up from my rising TSH (free T4 & T3 midrange), been rising since Sept08 when it was 2.8 (when I started taking vit D). Wt loss (obese) has been stalled until I started subbing eggs for hi-protein shake with 2-3 ozs coconut milk a month ago.  TSH was high in 2001 (4.7) with high amts of reverse T3 (doc won't test for it)& given 2 mcg Cytomel but my TC was 205 with TRI=100. Now what to do?  Try the 250 mgm SloNiacin & see what happens?  Or just concentrate on improving D levels and improving thyroid function and hoping they help normalize lipids? Just looking for suggestions, not treatment, all ideas will be run by doc. He said statins or niacin...I'm female no familiy hist of heart probs, why statins with no good studies for women? 'Cause he takes a statin *sigh*.

  • Anonymous

    8/16/2010 3:17:08 AM |

    After my heart attack from Late Stage Lyme Disease causing hypercoagulation/thick blood .. after released from the hospital, I had/have severe heart palpatations .. and IM SORRY BUT, FLUSH FREE NIACIN DOES WORK!!  I have to take 2-500mg twice daily and it stops the heart palpatations .. its no gimmick or hype.  IT Works !!  Ive heard about the severe very uncomfortable flush rush with regular Niacin which I think would scare me and make me panick, if not make me ill with the fragile state my system is in.  Purchased at any store online or otherwise .. a lot less than and w/no side effects, I also take Argnine to help open my vessels, but is not needed to stop my heart palpatations. Obviously, something is wrong though if I or anyone is having heart palpatation, so you should keep looking or asking RN/head nurse until you find a heart doctor who will actually address the issue and find out whats going on!!  Once in a while with stressful event I do need to take a beta blocker to stop palpations, but only 3-5 times a yr.  NO SIDE EFFECTS like beta blockers...

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    Given her stormy procedural history, I urged Gwen to immediately drop all processed carbohydrates from her diet, including any food made from wheat or corn starch. (She and her husband were shocked by this, by the way, since she'd been urged repeatedly to increase her whole grains by the hospital dietitians.) I also urged her to begin to lose the 30 lbs of weight that she'd gained following the hospital dietitians' advice. She also added fish oil at a higher-than-usual dose.

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