Medical Terms

Apoplexy: Hemorrhage into the brain. A stroke. It is usually associated with loss of consciousness and paralysis of various parts of the body.

Dementia: An organic mental disorder characterized by a general loss of intellectual abilities involving impairment of memory, judgment and abstract thinking as well as changes in personality.

Dysentery: Any of various disorders marked by inflammation of the intestines, especially of the colon and attended by pain in the abdomen, tenesmus and frequent stools containing blood and mucus. Causes include chemical irritants, bacteria, protozoa or parasitic worms.

Epilepsy: The paroxysmal transient disturbances of brain function that may be manifested as episodic impairment or loss of consciousness, abnormal motor phenomena, psychic or sensory disturbances or perturbation of the autonomic nervous system.

Mania: Excitement of psychotic proportions manifested by mental and physical hyperactivity, disorganization of behavior and elevation of mood.

Nephritis: Inflammation of the kidney, a focal or diffuse proliferative or destructive process which may involve the glomerulus, tubule or interstitial renal tissue.

Paresis: Slight or incomplete paralysis.

Pellagra: A deficiency of niacin causes pellagra, a serious disease which has plagued mankind for centuries. In most cases pellagra strikes people whose diet consists mainly of corn and cornmeal. Until fairly recently, pellagra was a major health problem in the United States. In the 1920s the disease killed thousands of people in poor rural areas. At that time, pellagra patients filled both hospitals and, because mental confusion was one of its symptoms, mental institutions as well.
The symptoms of pellagra include: high sensitivity to sunlight ; aggression ; dermatitis ; red skin lesions ; insomnia ; weakness ; mental confusion; diarrhea ; dementia. In the early 1900s, pellagra reached epidemic proportions in the American South. There were 1,306 reported pellagra deaths in South Carolina during the first ten months of 1915; 100,000 Southerners were affected in 1916. At this time, the scientific community held that pellagra was probably caused by a germ or some unknown toxin in corn.

*Pellagra was reported first in the United States in 1902. Soon, pellagra began to occur in epidemic proportions in the American South.  Although no one knew the exact cause of the disease, by the beginning of the twentieth century more and more researchers began to suspect that a dietary deficiency was responsible. The search for an "anti-pellagra factor" intensified in both Europe and the United States. In 1912, Casimir Funk (1884-1967), the Polish-born biochemist who coined the term vitamin, managed to isolate the right factor—nicotinic acid—from rice polishings. Unfortunately, at the time Funk was actually hunting for a substance that would cure beriberi, another serious deficiency disorder. When he found that nicotinic acid had only a minimal effect on beriberi, Funk pushed the compound aside. In the years that followed, the compound was largely ignored.

In the 1930s, a number of researchers—among them Hans Euler-Chelpin, Otto Warburg, and Arthur Harden—began reporting that nicotinic acid appeared to be part of quite a few vital coenzymes. Perhaps, the researchers suggested, the compound was a lot more important than was originally supposed.

Niacin wasn't fully established as a vitamin until 1937. It was then that a team of researchers headed by American biochemist named Conrad Arnold Elvehjem (1901-1962) administered 30 milligrams of nicotinic acid to a dog suffering from blacktongue (the canine equivalent of pellagra). The dog improved immediately and, with further doses, was soon completely cured.

Other biochemical researchers quickly confirmed that niacin was the anti-pellagra vitamin for humans. They also confirmed that adding foods high in niacin to the diet, such as meat, green vegetables, yeast, and most grains, dramatically cured the disease. Moreover, since tryptophan is converted by the body into niacin, adding milk and other tryptophan-rich foods to the diet worked equally well.

Very quickly, pellagra cases began declining. In 1941 breads and cereals routinely began to be fortified with the vitamin. It was then that pellagra ceased to be a problem in the United States. The disease does crop up occasionally in other parts of the world, usually where poor diet is a problem.

epticemia: Systemic disease associated with the presence and persistence of pathogenic microorganisms or their toxins in the blood.





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