Tag Archives: niacin

Treating Corn to Prevent Pellagra

In yesterday’s post, I mentioned corn and pellagra.  Pellagra was a vitamin deficiency disease caused by a lack of niacin.  It became an epidemic in the south during the great depression.  It was a main staple eaten by many of the poor.

When corn was first introduced into non-Native American farming, it was generally welcomed with enthusiasm for its productivity.  However, a widespread problem of malnutrition soon arose wherever corn became the main staple.  This was a mystery since these types of malnutrition were not normally seen among the Native Americans to whom corn was the principal staple food.

It was eventually discovered that the Native Americans learned long ago to add alkali—in the form of wood ashes among North Americans and lime (calcium carbonate) among South and Central Americans—to corn meal.  …

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