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Pellagra Causes

Dietary deficiency of niacin or its amino acid precursor tryptophan results in pellagra. Dietary amino acid imbalances are also associated with the development of pellagra. Excessive leucine noted in diets that sorghum is a staple causes an amino acid imbalance, which interferes with tryptophan metabolism resulting in the development of pellagra.

Pellagra Definition

Pellagra is a vitamin deficiency disease caused by dietary lack of niacin (B3) and protein, especially proteins containing the essential amino acid tryptophan. Because tryptophan could be converted into niacin, foods with tryptophan but without niacin, such as milk, prevent pellagra. But, if dietary tryptophan is diverted into protein production, niacin deficiency may still result.

Pellagra Diagnosis

The amino acid deficiency must be balanced by consumption of other sources of protein. It was common to prisoners of Soviet labor camps, the infamous Gulag. It could be found in cases of chronic alcoholism.

Pellagra Symptoms and Signs

The symptoms of pellagra include: High sensitivity to sunlight; Aggression; Dermatitis, alopecia, oedema; Smooth, beefy red glossitis; Red skin lesions; Insomnia; Weakness.

Pellagra Treatment

Nicotinamide or niacin taken orally is usually effective in reversing the clinical manifestations of pellagra. As patients usually malnourished and suffer from other vitamin deficiencies, provision of a high-protein diet and B-complex vitamins is needed for complete restoration of health.

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