Deficiency of niacin causes pellagra. Pellagra was once a widespread disease, especially in certain areas. It was highly prevalent in certain poor regions of the world due to malnutrition. At present pellagra has declined significantly throughout the world, but pellagra is still prevalent in some parts of the world like Western parts of Asia and Southern parts of Africa, as in these regions poor people sustain only on maize and little else and in the maize niacin is present in the “bound” form and not available for use by human body. Human body can not free the bound form of niacin from maize.
Pellagra is traditionally a disease of maize eating regions, where maize is the staple diet and it occurs among poor people as they eat mainly maize and very little else and do not get enough niacin from other food sources (as they consume very little of other foods). That is why pellagra is still prevalent in many maize eating areas of the world where poverty is still predominant.
Although pellagra is predominantly a disease of maize eating regions in some parts of India (like in some segment of Telangana area of Andhra Pradesh State of India) pellagra is reported. In a study it was found that the pellagra in that area is due to consumption of Sorghum vulgare (locally known as jowar) as staple diet and traditionally people are pure vegetarians in the area and do not consume milk or foods of other animal origin. In the study it was found that there is excess of an amino acid leucin in Sorghum vulgare or jowar, which cause imbalance in amino acids and excess leucin interfere with conversion of tryptophan to niacin, thereby causing deficiency of niacin and consequently pellagra results. Read more…
Niacin deficiency in diet cause pellagra and it is a serious disease. Pellagra is a preventable serious disease and prevention of pellagra and other niacin deficiency disorders is not difficult at all.
What is the daily requirement of niacin?
The daily requirement of niacin (RDA or Recommended Daily Allowance of niacin) is approximately 6.6 mgs per 1000 kcal of energy intake e.g. if a person is consuming 3,000 kcal of energy per day he/she will require 19.8 mgs of niacin per day. For adults the normal requirement is generally 15-20 mgs per day. During pregnancy additional 2 mgs per day is required and during lactation (breast feeding) and additional 3 mgs per day is required. For infants the daily requirement is approximately 650-700 mcg per kilo of body weight.
The main aspect of prevention of niacin deficiency and pellagra is to educate the vulnerable population about the seriousness of the disease and also to make them understand that pellagra is easily preventable. The only thing required to prevent pellagra is to bring some variation in the food we eat and addition of milk and any food of animal origin is enough to prevent niacin deficiency and pellagra which is universally accepted as the way of prevention of pellagra. As niacin deficiency and pellagra is generally seen only in maize eating population addition of another cereal with maize in the staple diet can also prevent the disease to some extent. Read more…