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Higher dietary niacin intake linked to lower COPD risk, study finds

In a recent study published in Scientific Reports, researchers examine the association between the prevalence of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and dietary niacin intake.

Study: Association of dietary niacin intake with the prevalence and incidence of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Image Credit: monticello /

What causes COPD?

COPD is characterised by obstructed airflow resulting from abnormalities within the airways and alveoli. In consequence, a few of the most typical symptoms related to COPD include dyspnea, cough, and sputum production. Along with the lungs, COPD also can affect the muscles, bones, and cardiovascular system, thus posing a big public health burden.

Despite recent advancements within the treatment and management of COPD, the disease stays deadly, with over three million deaths attributed to COPD every year. Several aspects can increase the danger of COPD, essentially the most notable of which include smoking and aging; nonetheless, there stays an absence of information on how the consumption of certain vitamins, either through supplementation or a well-balanced weight loss plan, may impact the danger of COPD.

Vitamins are crucial components of normal physiological processes. For instance, vitamins B3, C, E, and D effectively reduce oxidative stress by limiting lipid peroxidation, protein carbonylation, and the glycation of end-products. Likewise, several vitamins are also related to antioxidant properties that support cellular repair processes and mitigate inflammatory responses.

Niacin, otherwise often known as vitamin B3, is present in various food products, including meat, fish, and nuts. It’s involved in quite a few cellular processes, including metabolism, DNA repair, and nervous system function.

Previous studies have found that niacin and other nutrients like vitamin A, fiber, carbohydrates, protein, riboflavin, and vitamin C are related to reduced severity of harm in COPD patients. Nevertheless, few studies have investigated niacin’s role in COPD.

Concerning the study

In the current study, researchers retrieved National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) data between 2003 and 2018 while specializing in individuals with dietary niacin intake and COPD. Dietary information was obtained from two 24-hour dietary recall questionnaires three to 10 days apart. Participant responses to those surveys were used to find out niacin, energy, alcohol, and macronutrient intake.

Study participants were considered to have COPD in the event that they self-reported a physician diagnosis, had a forced expiratory volume in a single second (FEV1) to forced vital capability (FVC) ratio below 0.7, or were over 40 years of age with a history of smoking or chronic bronchitis and were being treated by certain medications, including selective phosphodiesterase-4 inhibitors, mast cell stabilizers, leukotriene modifiers, and inhaled corticosteroids.

Demographic data on the participant’s gender, age, body mass index (BMI), race, family income, education level, smoking status, drinking habits, and history of diabetes or hypertension were also recorded. Blood samples were also collected for baseline plasma glucose measurements.

Study findings

After excluding individuals for missing COPD, dietary niacin intake, and demographic data, 7,055 participants constituted the ultimate analytical sample set, 243 of whom had COPD. Participants with COPD were more prone to be older, with a mean age of 60.8 years as in comparison with 46.7 years of age within the non-COPD group. Lower incomes, a better incidence of smoking and alcohol consumption, diabetes, and hypertension were also more regularly reported within the COPD group.

Study participants who reported the best niacin intake were at a significantly lower risk of COPD than those with the bottom intake. In truth, a transparent dose-response relationship was observed between dietary niacin intake and COPD prevalence, by which increasing levels of dietary niacin intake were related to a consistent reduction in COPD prevalence.

The protective effect of dietary niacin intake on COPD incidence was independent of age, income, smoking, drinking habits, marital status, race, hypertension, and diabetes.


The present study established a dose-response relationship between dietary niacin intake and COPD prevalence using a representative sample of adults residing in the USA. Niacin may mitigate oxidative stress in COPD by improving the antioxidant capability of each endogenous and exogenous antioxidants, thereby reducing inflammation within the airways and improving pulmonary function. Nevertheless, further studies are needed to elucidate the precise mechanisms by which niacin intake affects COPD.

Journal reference:

  • Li, W., Ren, K., Yu, J., et al. (2024). Association of dietary niacin intake with the prevalence and incidence of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Scientific Reports 14(1); 1-9. doi:10.1038/s41598-024-53387-4 
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