5 Niacin

Authored by: Janos Zempleni , John W. Suttie , Jesse F. Gregory III , Patrick J. Stover , James B. Kirkland

Handbook of Vitamins

Print publication date:  July  2013
Online publication date:  July  2013

Print ISBN: 9781466515567
eBook ISBN: 9781466515574
Adobe ISBN:


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The identification of niacin as a vitamin resulted from an urgent need to cure pellagra, which ravaged low socioeconomic groups of the Southeastern United States in the early 20th century and various European populations for the previous two centuries [1,2]. Corn had been introduced to Europe from the Americas and quickly became a staple food, as it could produce more calories per acre than wheat or rye. In 1735, the Spanish physician Casal became the first to describe the strange new disease, which he termed mal de la rosa (disease of the rose) and the characteristic rash around the neck of pellagrins is still referred to as “Casal’s necklace.” The disease spread geographically with the cultivation of corn and became known as pelle agra (rough skin) in Italy.

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