Tag Archives: pellagra

A medical mystery

17 Jul


Red Madness: How a Medical Mystery Changed What We Eat by Gail Jarrow

At the turn of the 20th century, a disease was creeping through the impoverished South. Victims developed a patterned red rash, intestinal distress, dementia, and eventually death. It had been a scourge in Europe for hundreds of years, but, suddenly, it arrived in North America. It turns out that this disease had a simple solution, but it took a dedicated physician and epidemiologist, Joseph Goldberger, to realize that pellagra was caused by extreme nutritional deficiencies.

There are many reasons to praise this book. First, it is an excellent narrative. Gail Jarrow peppers her prose with real life stories of people afflicted by the disease. The black & white photos give enough of a hint of the horrors of pellagra, without being too graphic. The story is presented as a medical mystery and Jarrow shows how Goldberger follow the scientific method to solve the mystery. There are twists, turns and rd herrings. even after Goldberger solved the mystery, doctors refused to believe him. Fortunately, over time, people came to realize he was right. In fact, we are still living with the consequences of his discover: foods enriched with vitamins.

Pair this with one or more of these works of fiction

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