What are the Deficiency Disorders of Niacin?

ID-100141688Deficiency 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.

What are the symptoms of pellagra?

Pellagra is characterized by Diarrhea, Dermatitis and Dementia (loss of memory or unable to remember), classically known as three D’s. Other symptoms of pellagra includes glossitis (inflammation of the tongue and the tongue becomes enlarged), stomatitis (inflammation of the lips which also becomes enlarged) etc. The dermatitis of pellagra occurs only in those areas or parts of the skin which is exposed to sunlight and generally is symmetrical. The common areas where dermatitis occurs in pellagra are face, hands, legs and the back. Along with dementia, other mental changes like irritability, delirium, depression etc. can occur in pellagra.

 

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