Nicotinamide and catecholamines are both degraded by S-adenosylmethionine-dependent methylation. Whether excess nicotinamide affects the degradation of catecholamines is unknown. The aim of this study was to investigate the effect of nicotinamide on the methylation status of the body and methylation-mediated catecholamine degradation in both normotensives and hypertensives. The study was conducted in 19 normotensives and 27 hypertensives, using a nicotinamide-loading test (100 mg orally). Plasma nicotinamide, N(1)-methylnicotinamide, homocysteine (Hcy), betaine, norepinephrine, epinephrine, normetanephrine and metanephrine levels before and 5 h after nicotinamide loading were measured. Compared with normotensives, hypertensives had higher baseline (fasting) levels of plasma nicotinamide, Hcy and norepinephrine, but lower levels of plasma normetanephrine, a methylated norepinephrine derivative. Nicotinamide loading induced a significant increase in the levels of plasma N(1)-methylnicotinamide and norepinephrine, and a significant decrease in the levels of O-methylated epinephrine (metanephrine) and betaine, a major methyl donor, in both hypertensives and normotensives. Moreover, nicotinamide-loading significantly increased plasma Hcy levels, but decreased plasma normetanephrine levels in normotensives. The baseline levels of plasma epinephrine in hypertensives were similar to those of normotensives, but the post-nicotinamide-loading levels of plasma epinephrine in hypertensives were higher than those of normotensives. This study demonstrated that excess nicotinamide might deplete the labile methyl pool, increase Hcy generation and inhibit catecholamine degradation. It also revealed that hypertensives had an abnormal methylation pattern, characterized by elevated fasting plasma levels of unmethylated substrates, nicotinamide, Hcy and norepinephrine. Therefore, it seems likely that high nicotinamide intake may be involved in the pathogenesis of Hcy-related cardiovascular disease.