Corn and B12

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The other day, I was browsing this thread on the Vegan Freak forums and saw this in an interesting post from Kyle:

Also, just a quick health tidbit, vegans should be careful to limit thier consumption of corn, even the popped varity, as it blocks the absorbtion of B vitamins, including the all important B12. Once in a while is okay though.

I had never heard such a thing before and couldn’t find anything to back it up (and he said he didn’t remember where he saw it originally). But it got me to thinking, my God!, if this is true does this mean that the popcorn I eat three times a week is completely offsetting the nutritional yeast I put on it?

(This is certainly said with sarcasm, though I would be interested if anyone has any evidence that this particular claim has some scientific support.)

4 Responses to “Corn and B12”

  1. Hayduke

    Corn does not block vitamin B12. The problem with corn is that it tightly binds the amino acids lysine and niacin so they are not readily available. The disease pellagra is caused by a deficiency of niacin and was common in Europe after corn was introduced from North America.

    Native american people cooked corn with wood ash or lye which made the niacin in corn available.

  2. Dreena

    That *would* be ironic!! I just popped corn yesterday and sprinkled with nut yeast – first time in ages… coincidentally!

  3. BB

    I remember hearing about this in high school. Here’s the Wikipedia entry:

    Pellagra

    When maize was first introduced outside of the Americas it was typically welcomed enthusiastically by farmers everywhere for its productivity. However, a widespread problem of malnutrition soon arose wherever maize was introduced. This was a mystery since these types of malnutrition were not seen among the indigenous Americans under normal circumstances.

    It was eventually discovered that the indigenous Americans learned long ago to add alkali—in the form of ashes among North Americans and lime (calcium carbonate) among Mesoamericans—to corn meal to liberate the B-vitamin niacin, the lack of which was the underlying cause of the condition known as pellagra. This alkali process is known by its Nahuatl (Aztec)-derived name: nixtamalization.

    Besides the lack of niacin, pellagra was also characterized by protein deficiency, a result of the inherent lack of two key amino acids in pre-modern maize, lysine and tryptophan. Nixtamalization was also found to increase the lysine and tryptophan content of maize to some extent, but more importantly, the indigenous Americans had learned long ago to balance their consumption of maize with beans and other protein sources such as amaranth and chia, as well as meat and fish, in order to acquire the complete range of amino acids for normal protein synthesis.

    Since maize had been introduced into the diet of non-indigenous Americans without the necessary cultural knowledge acquired over thousands of years in the Americas, the reliance on maize elsewhere was often tragic. Once alkali processing and dietary variety was understood and applied, pellagra disappeared. The development of high lysine maize and the promotion of a more balanced diet has also contributed to its demise.

  4. Ryan

    I knew you guys would come through with some good info. Thanks. :)

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