Tag Archives: minerals

Deficiency Diseases: Pellagra Curse Of The Unprepared


Regardless of what you are preparing for, and regardless of what stage you are at on the preparedness journey, something that will never change is that people get sick.

Although many people have a medical kit that an accident and emergency department would be proud to own, that alone will not be enough.

You need to have a basic working knowledge of the medical problems that can occur from nothing more complicated than everyday life, especially when that life is lived under conditions that are so very different from those we are used to.

Vitamin and mineral deficiencies are not the most riveting subject but a working knowledge of the most common, and some of the most dangerous deficiency diseases is an absolute must for those trying to survive in a world without medical assistance.

Pellagra: Curse of the unprepared

In 1915 pellagra reached epidemic proportions in the southern US states and this prompted the government to employ a doctor, Joseph Goldburger to resolve the issue. Goldberger found resistance at every level. Southern doctors were suspicious of a Jewish Northern doctor and even when he made the connection between pellagra and diet he was ignored.

He went as far as actually ingesting pellagra to prove it wasn’t caused by a germ or virus but still he made no headway with the establishment. It was only after conducting experiments on prisoners, (who would be pardoned if they lived) that people started to take notice. He altered their diet and actually induced pellagra in the group, several of whom died.

Sadly Goldburger died before the food causing the problem was found, even though he knew it was linked to the amount of maize consumed in the southern states.

The traditional way of preparing maize involves nixtamalization; the corn was treated with lime. (lime, not limes) This makes niacin, B3 nutritionally available to the body. When the cultivation of maize spread the value of treating it with lime was not understood and the practice was abandoned thus leaving the consumers of the corn no access to the niacin available in it.

As corn became more plentiful it’s price dropped and people began to eat more and more of it. The population of the southern states was high consumers and they paid the price with over 100,000 people affected and over 1300 deaths in the first few months of 1913 alone. In all over 3 million Americans were affected and over 100,000 deaths were caused by the disease between 1904 and 1939.

Research continued after Goldberger’s death and it found that twice the numbers of females as males are affected and this is probably due to estrogen inhibiting the amino acid tryptophan, which enables niacin absorption.

Eating foods with bio-available niacin relieves the symptoms of pellagra very quickly, and this is easy to do with such a wide variety of foods available to us today. Should that food supply be diminished this may not be the case.

Anything that stops the supply of simple basic foodstuffs that contain niacin will cause a resurgence of this awful disease.

This is evident in areas such as Zimbabwe, Nepal, Angola and Sudan where strife and adverse weather has diminished the food supply and left the populations relying on untreated corn as a staple food. There has been a rise in pellagra in these places since 2002 with the World Health Organization showing a niacin deficiency of almost 30% in females and 6% in children. The incidence of clinical pellagra rather than just niacin deficiency is also rising in many of these areas.

Niacin can be found in foods that provide protein, something that may well be lacking in the diets of the majority of people in a post-collapse world. Most preppers store nuts, dried fruits and legumes all of which contain niacin but the population at large do not and this will invariably lead to problems. The best sources of niacin are beef, game, lamb, poultry and seafood. Some fruits and veggies are a valuable source, namely mushrooms and mangoes but even those only offers a small percentage of the recommended daily amount.

The symptoms are diverse: High sensitivity to sunlight, cardiomyopathy, aggressive behavior, stomach pain, dermatitis, weakness, mental confusion, diarrhea and later dementia, coma and death. Left untreated the disease gets worse and worse causing death on average in about 4 years. Prior to that the victims will be extremely debilitated and can die of infections when the dermatitis becomes infected if medical help is not available

It would be extremely wise to stock up on B3 supplements and B3 rich foods prior to any collapse. Pellagra is a slow and painful death, a death that sadly millions of people may face in the future.


Many deficiency diseases will be very difficult to avoid in a long-term collapse. Humans need a wide variety of foods, from all food groups in order to sustain themselves.

Great care should be taken now to plan and procure as wide a variety of foodstuffs as you can in order to avoid these debilitating and in some cases life limiting conditions.

Without exception the addition of fresh foods to our diet is the best way to ensure we are not deficient in vitamins and minerals in the long term.

Here are more deficiency diseases you may be interested in:

Take Care