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J Nutr. 1989 Apr;119(4):591-8.

Biochemical markers for assessment of niacin status in young men: urinary and blood levels of niacin metabolites.

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  • 1U.S. Department of Agriculture, Western Human Nutrition Research Center, San Francisco, CA 94129.


Biochemical markers of niacin status were studied in healthy young men fed 6.1 to 32 niacin equivalents (NE) per day over an 11-wk period while residing in a metabolic unit. Methylated metabolites of niacin, N1-methylnicotinamide (NMN) and N1-methyl-2-pyridone-5-carboxamide (2-pyr), in urine and plasma were determined during periods of low (6.1 or 10.1 NE per day), adequate (19 NE per day = 1 RDA) and high (25 or 32 NE per day) niacin intakes and after small test doses of nicotinamide. Urine excretion of less than 1.2 mg/d of either NMN or 2-pyr was a reliable indicator of subjects receiving the lowest intake of 6.1 NE/d, but the NMN metabolite was a better marker of subjects ingesting 10.1 NE/d. The ratio of 2-pyr/NMN in urine was not as good a measure of the 6.1 NE/d intake as the individual metabolite excretions and was not responsive to the 10.1 NE/d intake. Plasma niacin metabolites were generally not as reliable as urinary metabolites for identifying subjects receiving low niacin intakes, however, values for plasma 2-pyr dropped quickly and were eventually nondetectable. After a 1 RDA oral dose of nicotinamide, increases in urine and plasma 2-pyr levels above pre-dose baseline values were significantly decreased in subjects receiving low, as compared to adequate, niacin intake. A leucine supplement had no effect on the rate of repletion of niacin-deficient subjects nor on the level of methylated niacin metabolites in urine or plasma.

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