From the 18th century (1735) to 1940 –– maize-based diets were observed to lead to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people from PELLAGRA.
Pellagra is a complex disease caused by tryptophan deficiency and vitamin B3 (niacin) deficiency. The current “cereal monoculture fad/trend” in “special diets” among some cults of the Millennials –– has also led to restrictions in farmland animals to similarly monotonous diets. However, few studies have distinguished the effects of crop nutritional properties on reproduction of these species from those having other confounding factors such as pesticide toxicity or agricultural modifications.
In the attached study, authors show that maize-based diets cause high rates of maternal infanticide in the European hamster, a farmland species on the verge of extinction in Western Europe. Authors then demonstrated that vitamin B3 supplementation effectively restores reproductive success in maize-fed females and stops maternal infanticide from occurring. This provocative study pinpoints how nutritional deficiencies –– caused, in this instance, by maize monoculture –– could affect farmland animal reproduction and, hence, their fitness.
Of course, restriction (or total absence) of any other essential vitamin in the diet will also lead to numerous serious disorders (multifactorial traits), e.g. vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol) or vitamin A (retinoic acid).
Proc R Soc B 2o17; 284: 20162168