By combining the six-sided molecule of the carbohydrate inositol and six molecules of nicotinate, a form of niacin, chemists create inositol hexaniacinate, a compound frequently used as a dietary supplement. While either substance can be found in a number of foods, the higher-dose combination supplement is often taken to alter cholesterol levels. Research also indicates that the compound has beneficial effects for those suffering from peripheral vascular disorders. The compound generally undergoes metabolism more slowly than niacin alone thus inhibiting sudden vasodilatation and flushing effects.
Researchers are divided as to the effectiveness of the compound in managing cholesterol. While some believe inositol hexaniacinate produces satisfactory results, others suggest the compound is not effective unless taken in high doses, which may produce side effects similar to taking niacin alone. When combined with inositol, hexaniacinate metabolism may take 10 hours or more, which prevents flushing. Researchers believe that once consumed, inositol hexaniacinate breaks back down into inositol, or myo-inositol and nicotinic acid. Others argue that this metabolization may or may not occur and suggest that the combination does not allow enough free flowing nicotinic acid to be of benefit.
Health care providers can prescribe inositol hexaniacinate in doses of 1,500 milligrams to 4,000 milligrams per day, taken as two to four divided doses. Researchers do believe that the compound produces beneficial effects in persons diagnosed with certain peripheral vascular disorders, including intermittent claudication and Raynaud’s syndrome. Persons suffering from intermittent claudication experience pain while walking due to insufficient circulation in the legs. Raynaud’s produces alternating warm and cold sensations in the hands along with color changes and is also associated with impaired circulation.
Flushing occurs as the blood vessels dilate rapidly, producing a rush of blood flow, which some experience as a sudden overall warm sensation, followed by skin reddening, chills, and dizziness. Some individuals become short of breath, have an increased heart rate, and experience profuse sweating. Inositol hexaniacinate in such high doses may produce flushing, skin rashes and itching, along with gastrointestinal symptoms that include nausea, vomiting or diarrhea. High doses might also increase blood uric acid levels and blood glucose levels. As the liver metabolizes inositol hexaniacinate, some experience liver toxicity.
Niacin generally lowers cholesterol by inhibiting the break down of tissue fats. The fats cannot travel through the bloodstream to the liver for conversion into low-density lipoproteins (LDLs), or bad cholesterol. As the number of LDLs decrease, high-density lipoproteins (HDLs) increase. The HDLs, or good cholesterol, flow through the blood collecting cholesterol and returning it to the liver for elimination from the body. Niacin usually metabolizes quickly, peaking in a relatively short time of 30 minutes to one hour.