Red Madness, Gail Jarrow

red madness


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One Response to “Red Madness, Gail Jarrow”

  1. Kali G. Says:

    Kali G.

    The book I read was “Red Madness- How a Medical Mystery Changed What We Eat,” a book about a vicious disease which was first written about in Spain 1735. Pellagra a disease which causes a red rash to pop up on the victim’s skin butterfly (the cheeks), necklace (neck and chest), gloves (hands), boots (feet). It also causes extreme weight loss and diarrhea. The first report of Pellagra I was in Georgia in 1902 when H.F. Harris died of the mysterious disease. In 1912 it was said to be an infectious disease (an illness caused by an agent such as a bacterium, virus, or parasite that invades the body). It took 44 years for there to be a not even perfect cure for Pellagra. Joseph Goldberger an Austro-Hungarian scientist from who proved that Pellagra was a disease that could be solved by just having a better diet with eggs, milk, and meat. No one believed him though, because that would of course mean that if you had Pellagra it was your fault because you’re poor or you just don’t like certain foods whatever it may be, people don’t like to think that it is their fault. So he tested his theories in the places that need it the most: mental institutions and orphanages. He did this for two years and most people got better but some were so sick that they could not eat the foods and they died even though they had the diet available. But did they believe him? Of course not! Why would they? They thought that it was an infectious disease not that they really just needed more protein and vitamins. So Goldberger continued his research now moving on to the “filth parties” in 1916. At these “parties” he and a different group each time would join and take the “Pellagra Pill” a pill made up of the skin scales, feces, urine, blood, saliva, and other body fluids of the Pellagrins. Goldberger preformed seven filth parties, one of which his wife Mary was involved in. The only symptom that the people got from the pill was diarrhea. From 1918-1929 Goldberger searched for foods that were cheaper to cure Pellagra. In 1920 cotton prices plummeted causing a jump in the number of victims of Pellagra because the farmers couldn’t buy milk, meat, or eggs anymore, so their Pellagra came back. January 17th 1929 Joseph Goldberger dies of a rare kidney cancer. 1937, eight years after the death of Goldberger, Conrad Elvehjem discovers factor P-P (pellagra preventative) is Nicotinic acid. Commercial bakers enriched bread with yeast or niacin. Niacin the name chosen for nicotinic acid because nicotinic which sounds like nicotine and acid just scared people so they shortened it to niacin so more bakers would put in in their bread and not be afraid that people would stop buying it. Then World War II started, and men were being drafted by the U.S. army to stop it, but when people came in they were so malnourished that not enough people could actually join. December 1941, America joins World War II. January 1943 enrichment order enacted to put niacin and yeast in American food products. When World War II ends wartime enrichment lifted but most bakers continued to use niacin in their products.

    Yes, I would recommend this book because it was actually very interesting. I liked the way that the author didn’t tell you the answer until the very end. Before I read this book I knew nothing about Pellagra, and now I wrote a 1100 some word paper, and I didn’t even Google anything. This author did a really good job putting everything in a way that actually made sense, and had a good flow. She randomly put in little stories of real people dying of the disease, one of which was horrible but kind of interesting, because it was a lady who had Pellagra for many years and then it got to the mental stage and she got an ax and tried to kill her family. So yes I would recommend this book because it is very entertaining.

    Rating: 5 stars

    Recommended Books: Flight, Murder in Massachusetts

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