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Am J Physiol Gastrointest Liver Physiol. 2014 Feb 15;306(4):G320-7. doi: 10.1152/ajpgi.00181.2013. Epub 2013 Dec 19.

Therapeutic role of niacin in the prevention and regression of hepatic steatosis in rat model of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease.

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Department of Veterans Affairs Healthcare System, Long Beach, California and the University of California, Irvine, California.


Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), a leading cause of liver damage, comprises a spectrum of liver abnormalities including the early fat deposition in the liver (hepatic steatosis) and advanced nonalcoholic steatohepatitis. Niacin decreases plasma triglycerides, but its effect on hepatic steatosis is elusive. To examine the effect of niacin on steatosis, rats were fed either a rodent normal chow, chow containing high fat (HF), or HF containing 0.5% or 1.0% niacin in the diet for 4 wk. For regression studies, rats were first fed the HF diet for 6 wk to induce hepatic steatosis and were then treated with niacin (0.5% in the diet) while on the HF diet for 6 wk. The findings indicated that inclusion of niacin at 0.5% and 1.0% doses in the HF diet significantly decreased liver fat content, liver weight, hepatic oxidative products, and prevented hepatic steatosis. Niacin treatment to rats with preexisting hepatic steatosis induced by the HF diet significantly regressed steatosis. Niacin had no effect on the mRNA expression of fatty acid synthesis or oxidation genes (including sterol-regulatory element-binding protein 1, acetyl-CoA carboxylase 1, fatty acid synthase, and carnitine palmitoyltransferase 1) but significantly inhibited mRNA levels, protein expression, and activity of diacylglycerol acyltrasferase 2, a key enzyme in triglyceride synthesis. These novel findings suggest that niacin effectively prevents and causes the regression of experimental hepatic steatosis. Approved niacin formulation(s) for other indications or niacin analogs may offer a very cost-effective opportunity for the clinical development of niacin for treating NAFLD and fatty liver disease.


hepatic steatosis; niacin; nicotinic acid; nonalcoholic fatty liver disease; nonalcoholic steatohepatitis

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