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

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In a recently published study, Dr Scientific reportResearchers examined the relationship between chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and dietary niacin intake.

Study: Relation of dietary niacin intake to prevalence and incidence of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.  Image credit: monticello / Shutterstock.comStudy: Association of dietary niacin intake with prevalence and incidence of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Image credit: monticello / Shutterstock.com

What causes COPD?

COPD is characterized by obstructed airflow due to abnormalities in the airways and alveoli. As a result, some of the common symptoms associated with COPD include shortness of breath, coughing, and sputum production. In addition to the lungs, COPD can also affect the muscles, bones and cardiovascular system, thus creating a significant public health burden.

Despite recent advances in the treatment and management of COPD, the disease remains fatal, with more than three million deaths attributed to COPD each year. Several factors can increase the risk of COPD, including smoking and aging; However, there is a lack of information on how consumption of specific vitamins through supplementation or a balanced diet may affect the risk of COPD.

Vitamins are important components of normal physiological processes. For example, vitamins B3, C, E, and D effectively reduce oxidative stress by limiting lipid peroxidation, protein carbonylation, and end-product glycation. Similarly, several vitamins are also associated with antioxidant properties that support cellular repair processes and mitigate inflammatory responses.

Niacin, otherwise known as vitamin B3, is found in a variety of food products, including meat, fish and nuts. It is involved in numerous cellular processes including metabolism, DNA repair and nervous system function.

Previous studies have found that niacin and other nutrients such as vitamin A, fiber, carbohydrates, protein, riboflavin and vitamin C are associated with severity of damage in COPD patients. However, few studies have investigated the role of niacin in COPD.

About the study

In the current study, researchers retrieved National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) data from 2003 to 2018 while focusing on dietary niacin intake and individuals with COPD. Dietary information was obtained from two 24-hour dietary recall questionnaires three to ten days apart. Participants’ responses to this survey were used to determine niacin, energy, alcohol, and macronutrient intake.

Study participants were considered to have COPD if they self-reported a physician diagnosis, forced expiratory volume in one second (FEV1) with a forced vital capacity (FVC) ratio below 0.7, or who are older than 40 years and have a history of smoking or chronic bronchitis and are being treated with certain medications, including selective phosphodiesterase-4 inhibitors, mast cell stabilizers, leukotriene modifiers. Inhaled corticosteroids.

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

Study results

After excluding individuals for missing COPD, dietary niacin intake, and demographic data, 7,055 participants formed the final analytic sample set, of whom 243 had COPD. Participants with COPD were more likely to be older, with a mean age of 60.8 years compared to the non-COPD group of 46.7 years. Low income, a higher incidence of smoking and alcohol consumption, diabetes and hypertension were also reported more frequently in the COPD group.

Study participants who reported the highest niacin intake had a significantly lower risk of COPD than those with the lowest intake. Indeed, a clear dose-response relationship was observed between dietary niacin intake and COPD prevalence, where increasing levels of dietary niacin intake were associated with a consistent decrease 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 current study established a dose-response relationship between dietary niacin intake and the prevalence of COPD using a representative sample of adults living in the United States. Niacin may alleviate oxidative stress in COPD by improving the antioxidant capacity of both endogenous and exogenous antioxidants, thereby reducing airway inflammation 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., etc (2024). Association of dietary niacin intake with prevalence and incidence of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Scientific report 14(1); 1-9. doi:10.1038/s41598-024-53387-4

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