Thursday, May 15, 2003

On April 4 2003 I proved my ignorance again (in case there were any doubters). I wrote that pelagra is vitamin B-6 deficiency. In fact pellagra is vitamin B-3 deficiency (I was working on my memory of a course I took in 1982). Furthermore, corn binding of vitamin B-3 (niacin) is not at all understood. In fact, it is not even agreed that this is the corn-pellagra issue. What is known is that it is much better to eat tortillas than hominy grits. It is basically known that this is because the first step in making tortillas is soaking corn in an alkaline solution. It is possible that this liberates B-3 but it seems agreed that the more key issue is disolving glutelin to make tryptophan available (we can synthesize niacin from tryptophan) . In any case, niacin binding is clearly not well enough understood for biotech intervention.