Whole Grains, Vitamin B3 and Arthritis

The following information has been gathered and compiled through personal experience, twenty-five years of writing about health issues, while traveling, teaching classes that include T’ai Chi, Qi Gong, herbal information, martial arts and other health related subjects. The article also contains feedback from students and anecdotal information from readers of my columns. The following are my opinions and deductions from those sources.

Whole grains contain more than just roughage and fiber that contribute to bulk, they also have lots of vitamins and minerals. Whole grains, as their name implies, contain all the parts of the grain in naturally balanced and time release proportions. Most grains are moderately acid forming, with the exception of millet and buckwheat. Buckwheat contains a high percentage of oxalic acid, which may or may not be destroyed in cooking. Oxalic acid is a component of kidney stones and, if kidney stones or other kidney disorders are a problem, it might be advisable to avoid buckwheat.

Grains have different flavors and can add variety to meals. Some grains, like white rice and many wheat products are processed, or highly processed, food and not truly whole grains. Brown rice has the outer coating intact and the outer coating contains the majority of nutrients. White, or polished, rice has had the nutrients in the outer coating removed and then a small amount, of which a large portion may be actually chemical pseudo-nutrients made in a laboratory, added back in and labeled as “fortified.” This is the case with other grains as well. The nutrients that have been removed are then packaged up and sold as supplements. Personally, I prefer to eat the whole food as opposed to eating the processed version and paying for a pill. My mouth has never watered over the thought of taking a supplement.

Whole grains have a nutty flavor where processed and fortified grains, which have been reduced to simple carbohydrates from complex carbohydrates in the milling process, taste and act like the simple carbohydrate sugars they are. Many people have become accustomed, and addicted, to the sugar taste and dislike the true whole grain flavors. When I was in Canada a few years ago, there was a family from the orient staying at the resort where I was doing research. They disliked brown rice and would eat white rice only. I talked with them, and they told me they didn’t like the taste and that brown rice was considered a “peasant food” where they lived.

Sometime, in the early, mid-twentieth century, missionaries in the South Pacific, who had been eating white rice and feeding the brown rice to their chickens, ran out of brown rice. They, and the locals, had a high incidence of pellagra. After eating white rice for a period of time, the chickens began to display the same pellagra symptoms as the locals and missionaries. Once the chickens were put back on brown rice, the problems disappeared. Researchers discovered in 1937 that niacin, the third B vitamin to be discovered hence the designation vitamin B3, could prevent pellagra. The outer coating of brown rice contains niacin (known as nicotinic acid in medical circles). There are three D’s that sum up pellagra: dermatitis, diarrhea, dementia and death. In 1943, researchers found that vitamin B3 could relieve soreness and stiffness associated with arthritis. At that same time, the pharmaceutical companies were promoting their latest patented miracle cure, cortisone. Since there are few, if any, profits to be made in prevention and naturally occurring substances, the vitamin B3 information wasn’t highly publicized.

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