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Definition of Vitamin B3

  • Medical Author:
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

Vitamin B3: Vitamin B3 is niacin. Deficiency of niacin causes pellagra.

Pellagra was known as the "disease of the four D's" -- dermatitis, diarrhea, dementia and death. The disease is specifically characterized by:

  • Dermatitis: A rash on areas of the skin exposed to light or trauma and ulcerations within the mouth
  • Diarrhea
  • Dementia: Mental disorientation, confusion, delusions and depression
  • Death, if untreated.

Pellagra, once a puzzle, was solved by Joseph Goldberger (1874-1929). Serving in the Public Health Service, Dr. Goldberger proposed that pellagra was due to a nutritional deficiency and in 1915 began experiments with Mississippi prison inmates (who "volunteered" in return for full pardons). Dr. Goldberger fed them a poor diet he believed caused pellagra and within months, many developed the disease. Their symptoms of pellagra were reversed when meat, fresh vegetables and milk were added to their diet.

Niacin, Dr. Goldberger subsequently showed, was the principle that had this remarkable effect. A readily-available B vitamin, niacin cures pellagra and prevents it.

The name "pellagra" comes from the Italian "pelle", skin + "agra", rough = rough skin, referring to the skin problems in pellagra.

QUESTION

According to the USDA, there is no difference between a “portion” and a “serving.” See Answer
Reviewed on 12/27/2018

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