Nicotinic Acid vs. Nicotine

Some have apparently gained misleading impressions from recent press reports to the effect that nicotinic acid is now to be derived from the tobacco plant.

H.M.W., M.D.

Some have apparently gained misleading impressions from recent press reports to the effect that nicotinic acid is now to be derived from the tobacco plant. Information at hand indicates that individuals have con­cluded from these reports that nicotinic acid is of the nature of nicotine, and therefore undesirable as a product in the "enriched" flour program that has recently been launched —a program that deserves hearty endorsement.

Nicotinic acid is the term given to one of the dietary essentials for complete nutrition. This factor is quite widely distributed in na­ture in various plants and foods, as milk, eggs, wheat germ, and green vegetables, and is also derived from brewers' yeast. It is produced synthetically for commercial use. Nicotinic acid does not in all- respects conform to the nature of a vitamin (it partakes of the nature of a coenzyme) ; yet because of the close rela­tionship which lack of nicotinic acid bears to dietary-deficiency disease, particularly pellagra, it is classed with the vitamins.

The name "nicotinic acid" was attached to this factor because of the fact that it was first isolated during the chemical study of the tobacco plant. However, one is not to be misled by this association, for there is no rela­tionship, as relates to effects and actions in the body, between nicotine and nicotinic acid. In fact, authorities in the field of chemistry and nutrition are proposing that the name "nicotinic acid" be changed.

Nicotinic acid is found rather bountifully in the wheat germ. Flour made from the entire wheat kernel needs no enrichment, of course, but since it is not possible to commercially supply the general population with such entire-grain flour, the enrichment program is a lauda­ble step taken to overcome the ill results of the extensive use of white flour.

Nicotinic acid is present in the wheat kernel; else why would it be added to white flour to more nearly restore all the properties of the original grain ? Had some other common name been given to this important antipellagra factor, as indeed will no doubt be done soon, no objection would have been made to this chem­ical substance, which is one of the links of the dietary chain needed for optimal growth and buoyant health. Any implication or indication that flour enriched by the addition of nicotinic acid contains nicotine, or is undesirable be­cause of that addition, we regard as very unfortunate, misleading, and wholly contrary to established scientific evidence.             

H. M. W.

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H.M.W., M.D.

January 1942

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