Niacin Improves Memory

Inositol Hexanicotinate (IHN) has been compared with its chemical cousins, nicotinic acid and xanthinol nicotinate, and been found to be equal or better in normalizing blood lipid levels. Now, two new studies suggest that taking niacin supplements may help improve your memory, as well. A double-blind, placebo-controlled trial compared the effects of two different forms of niacin - nicotinic acid and xanthinol nicotinate - on memory in 96 healthy subjects, who were either young (35-45 years), middle aged (55-65 years), or elderly (75-85 years).1 They were scored on a variety of tests covering sensory register, short-term memory, and long-term memory.

A dose of 421.5 mg of niacin per day resulted in significant improvements that were 10% to 40% greater than placebo, depending on the memory task. Nicotinic acid was of greater benefit to younger and middle-aged subjects, who showed remarkable short-term memory improvements. Xanthinol nicotinate was more effective in the older subjects, in whom it also improved reaction times.

The difference in these outcomes is thought to result from the differences in the activity of nicotinic acid and xanthinol nicotinate. Nicotinic acid operates at the cell membrane, and appears to improve neuronal transmission. By contrast, xanthinol nicotinate operates inside cells, enhancing cell metabolism and oxygen supply in the brain.

Another new study from China suggests that nicotinic acid protects memory function caused by the disruption of oxygen (cerebral ischemia) and the restoration of blood flow (reperfusion) into the brains of rats following disruption.2 After first being trained to discriminate a stimulus, one group of rats received niacin. The scientists then induced a brief occlusion of the carotid artery, the main vessel carrying blood to the brain. After about 20 minutes, blood flow to the brain was restored (reperfusion). The behavioral performance of both the niacin-treated and control rats was found to be impaired following occlusion-reperfusion, but the niacin-treated rats were far less impaired. Continual treatment with nicotinic acid during the following 7 days resulted in the restoration of normal memory functions in the group pretreated with niacin. It was concluded that niacin had both a protective and a restorative effect on memory function.

Since Inositol Hexanicotinate (IHN) has been found to equal or surpass the lipid lowering benefits of regular niacin, and to equal that of xanthinol nicotinate, it seems likely that IHN may also have memory benefits.

References

1. Loriaux SM, Deijen JB, Orlebeke JF, De Swart JH. The effects of nicotinic acid and xanthinol nicotinate on human memory in different categories of age. A double-blind study. Psychopharmacology. 1985;87:390-395. 
2. Zhang X, Zhang B-Z, Yang X-P, Zhang W-W. Protective effects of nicotinic acid on disturbance of memory retrial induced by cerebral ischemia-reperfusion in rats. Chin J Pharm Tox. 1996;10:178-180.