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Knights in golden armor to the rescue


Kiel researchers patent novel encapsulation of vitamin B3

Vitamin B3, also known as niacin, can promote the growth of "good bacteria" in the gut, which creates health-boosting effects for the whole body. For this to take place though, relatively large amounts of niacin need to reach as far as the large intestine. The stomach and small intestine prevent this from happening, however, because they almost completely absorb the substance on its way through the digestive system. Researchers from the Cluster of Excellence "Inflammation at Interfaces" have now developed a novel transport casing for the niacin. They coated the substance in a protective covering, so that the niacin is not released until it arrives in the large intestine, the place where it should take effect. These new findings, for which a worldwide patent application is pending, have now been published in the specialist journal Diabetes Care.

Niacin is a vitamin from the so-called B-complex class. It is stored in the liver, and is important for a number of metabolic processes in the body. As early as 2012, researchers under the direction of cluster member Professor Philip Rosenstiel showed that niacin has an anti-inflammatory effect in the large intestine. But it is difficult to transport the substance to the large intestine in sufficient quantities, since it is usually absorbed into the blood when it passes through the stomach and small intestine. In addition, a high intake of non-encapsulated niacin can trigger a so-called flush in some people, which causes a red face and possibly a burning or itching sensation on the skin. If someone takes niacin in high doses over longer periods, this can also have harmful effects, such as damage to the liver. Therefore, in an interdisciplinary project between Clinical Nutrition and Metabolic Medicine (Director: Professor Matthias Laudes) at the University Medical Center Schleswig-Holstein (UKSH) and the Food Technology department (Director: Professor Karin Schwarz) at Kiel University, the researchers developed a kind of armor for the niacin.

In so doing, the scientists had to find a substance permitted for use as “packaging material” for food. "Because this is the only way the product can later be brought to the market as a foodstuff or food supplement," explained Eva-Maria Theismann from the Food Technology department, one of the lead authors. They found a suitable packaging procedure, and coated small vitamin pellets using a spraying method. "Coating is the heart of microencapsulation. We have also applied for a patent for this process. We developed a special formulation, which specifically releases the niacin in the desired section of the intestine." To achieve this, the researchers made use of the different pH values occurring in the body. The encapsulated pellets do not dissolve in the stomach and small intestine, but they do in the large intestine.

In a pilot study using healthy volunteers, the scientists tested if and when the encapsulated niacin was absorbed into the blood. They were able to demonstrate that the newly-developed method only releases the niacin in the large intestine, and that the blood levels hardly increased. "We are delighted with how well our process works," said Dr Daniela Fangmann, nutrition scientist in Clinical Nutrition and Metabolic Medicine at the UKSH, another lead author of the study. "With our development, we are able to deliver the niacin specifically to the area of the body where it has the greatest benefit." In order to facilitate easy dosage, the niacin pellets are packaged in gelatin capsules, as used with other dietary supplements.

The first results show that the niacin remains in its protective coating until released in the large intestine. As such, the vitamin B3 showed a strong influence on so-called Bacteroidetes. This is a very common type of bacteria in the digestive tract, which has an important and health-promoting effect on the metabolism. Head of the study, Professor Matthias Laudes added: "In our pilot study, we were able to demonstrate that the encapsulated niacin could alleviate the initial signs of insulin disorders and inflammation in the metabolism. Now we need to check whether our patent is suitable for preventive treatment in humans, for example for those who have a significantly increased risk of developing diabetes." In parallel, members of the Cluster of Excellence "Inflammation at Interfaces", under the leadership of the cluster spokesperson Professor Stefan Schreiber, are also investigating whether the patented procedure may be suitable for treating chronic inflammatory bowel diseases, because the anti-inflammatory effect of the substance in the large intestine has already been proven in scientific studies.

Original publication:
Fangmann, D, Theismann, EM, Türk, K, Schulte, DM, Relling, I, Hartmann, K, Keppler, JK, Knipp, JR, Rehman, A, Heinsen, FA, Franke, A, Lenk, L, Freitag-Wolf, S, Appel, E, Gorb, S, Brenner, C, Seegert, D, Waetzig, GH, Rosenstiel, P, Schreiber, S, Schwarz, K and Laudes, M (2017): Targeted microbiome intervention by microencapsulated delayed-release niacin beneficially affects insulin sensitivity in humans. Diabetes Care, doi:

More information:
Article in the unizeit newspaper on the topic of niacin capsules (in German):

Publication about tryptophan, which has an anti-inflammatory effect in the large intestine:
Hashimoto et al. (2012) in Nature:

Dr Daniela Fangmann
Clinical Nutrition and Metabolic Medicine, UKSH
Tel.: +49 (0)431 500-22446

Eva-Maria Theismann
Institute of Human Nutrition and Food Science at Kiel University
Tel.: +49 (0)431 880-2381

The vitamin niacin is originally in the form of a fine white powder (left image). It is made into small pellets using spray granulation. These then get a special protective layer (coating). The now yellow pellets are impervious to digestive juices in the stomach and small intestine (center image). The coating doesn’t dissolve until it reaches the large intestine, releasing the vitamin. For the experiments, the pellets were administered in a stomach-soluble gelatin capsule, as this makes it easier to find the right dose (right image).
Photos: pur.pur

Press contact:
Dr Tebke Böschen
Tel.: +49 (0)431 880-4682, e-mail:

The Cluster of Excellence "Inflammation at Interfaces" has been funded since 2007 by the Excellence Initiative of the German Government and the federal states with a total budget of 68 million Euros. It is currently in its second phase of funding. Around 300 cluster members are spread across the four locations: Kiel (Kiel University, University Medical Center Schleswig-Holstein (UKSH), Muthesius University of Fine Arts and Design (MHK)), Lübeck (University of Lübeck, UKSH), Plön (Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Biology) and Borstel (Research Center Borstel (FZB) – Center for Medicine and Biosciences) and are researching an innovative, systematic approach to the phenomenon of inflammation, which can affect all barrier organs such as the intestines, lungs and skin.

Cluster of Excellence "Inflammation at Interfaces"
Scientific Office, Head: Dr habil. Susanne Holstein
Postal address: Christian-Albrechts-Platz 4, 24118 Kiel, Germany
Tel.: +49 (0)431 880-4850, Fax: +49 (0)431 880-4894
Twitter: I@I @medinflame

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Dr. Tebke Böschen

press and communication

Cluster Office
Kiel University (CAU)
Christian-Albrechts-Platz 4
24118 Kiel

Phone: +49 (0)431 880 4682
Fax: +49 (0)431 880 4894