Thoughts on Scurvy

Tonight’s super sized T bone — Cunnamulla

When folk hear you are moving your diet to our species “ evolutionarily appropriate “ diet with heavy emphasis on animal based foods one of the perennial favourites is to query whether you might get scurvy ( vitamin C deficiency)

The short answer is No . Plenty of human carnivores out there prove the point and attest to fact that good health is the norm. In actual fact it take a few months to set scurvy off if your diet is entirely deficient in Vit C .

The anthropological evidence is very interesting .While there has never been a society that is vegan there have been many that are carnivores.

– Inuit Eskimos

– Plains Indians

– Maasai

– Chuktoka

– Mongols

All of them were free of the diseases that are wreaking havoc throughout the world. Studies of the remaining hunter gatherer societies in the 1900s “ showed them to be generally free of the signs and symptoms of cardiovascular disease (CVD), and other so-called diseases of human civilization.”

( acknowledged source from Carnivore Aurelius for paragraph )

The problems with scurvy became significant when maritime exploration took off ( 1500 – 1800 ‘s) Estimates of sailers who died on these long trips runs into the millions and it was a truly terrible way to die . It took a long time to establish what the cause was and how to effectively carry suitable foods to counter it .

The more recent ( late 1800 — early 1900’s) explorers of both the arctic and Antarctic have a valuable contribution to our understanding here too. Scurvy wreaked havoc with some of these expeditions because the men exhausted all of the bodies Vit C reserves till they succumbed to scurvy .

Both poles however had huge easy to catch food reserves with particularly fatty animals , fish , seals and penguins . What was established by the more intelligent observers was that if you harvested this fresh meat then scurvy was never an issue . That was Amundson’s winning strategy when he beat Scott to the Sth pole .

Shackleton’s later ill fated expedition led to a big group of men being marooned on an offshore island for 3 months while their galant leader sailed off in a small boat to Sth Georgia island to organise a rescue . An adventure that ranks high in the annals of human endeavour . When he returned to Elephant island to rescue his crew , they were all scurvy free having been living off fresh seal meat and blubber.

What this means is that fresh meat provides sufficient vitamin C to keep humans scurvy free .

Roll on the the period around WWII and we have some fascinating science from controlled starvation type diets on human subjects .

This was called the Sheffield study.

A number of medical experiments were carried out on conscientious objectors in Sheffield during the 1939–45 war. The subjects of these were pacifists nearly all of whom had been before tribunals and were allowed to volunteer for the experiments as an alternative to military service.

All the 10 volunteers deprived of vitamin C developed the signs of clinical scurvy in 6–8 months. These included petechial haemorrhages in the skin round the hair follicles, bleeding of the gums and, in one case, effusions into the knee joints. The wounds in this group tended to break down and bleed readily and their breaking strain was much reduced.

Complete reversal and restoration to health was achieved by giving these 10 unfortunates just 10 mg of Vit C per day

It has been suggested that the daily consumption of vitamin C should be much higher than the 30 mg recommended as a minimum requirement by the Sheffield group. However, no differences were found in the Sheffield study in the health of those receiving 70 mg a day compared with the group receiving only 10 mg a day and Jacobs could find no biological or physiological markers to indicate a condition of vitamin C deficiency in the absence of signs of clinical scurvy.

In effect they found that the minimum requirement ( RDA) is only about 10 mg

Official today’s RDA recommendations vary 45 – 70 mg , but this primary – unlikely to be repeated science indicated the smaller 10 mg was sufficient .

Now some folk supplement with mega doses of Vit C , it’s a great antioxidant type nutrient handling free radicals, but it begs the question of whether it is possible to take too much . Some science suggests that mega doses of say 1000 mg force the body to oxidise the excess to oxalates that can cause calcium crystal structures to form causing problems in various tissues .

Caution advised.

So NO , DONT expect me to succumb to scurvy any time soon .


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