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Scurvy on a zero-carb diet

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  • Scurvy on a zero-carb diet

    Fascinating article:

    I wonder how the selenium deficiency arises? Maybe in parts of the world with good selenium levels in soil, wheat's a significant source??

  • #2
    Yes, I can see someone could come unstuck like that.

    Of course, while no-one need avoid fruit (still less vegetables) - at least within reason - in order to lose weight, equally there's nothing magical or special about fruit and vegetables. There was a 19th- and early-20th- century superstition in the scientific world that said that fruit and vegetables (and fresh air [sic]) were necessary to avoid scurvy. In point of fact, when your fruit and vegetables are no longer fresh, they no longer help (c.f. Robert Falcon Scott's party's fate) but if you can get fresh-killed meat and you undercook it, as Nansen when overwintering and Amundsen when racing to the Pole did, that will keep you healthy.

    Communities that had little access to plant foods - like Eskimos and Canadian Indians - managed for hundreds, rather thousands, of years without them. You'd think the scientific world of Scott's day would have realized that rather than promoting duff theories that were contradicted by their experience.

    Why not put the theories on one side for a moment and just go and ask the Indians like Price did?

    When I asked an old Indian, through an interpreter, why the Indians did not get scurvy he replied promptly that that was a white man's disease. I asked whether it was possible for the Indians to get scurvy. He replied that it was, but said that the Indians know how to prevent it and the white man does not. When asked why he did not tell the white man how, his reply was that the white man knew too much to ask the Indian anything. I then asked him if he would tell me. He said he would if the chief said he might. He went to see the chief and returned in about an hour, saying that the chief said he could tell me because I was a friend of the Indians and had come to tell the Indians not to eat the food in the white man's store. He took me by the hand and led me to a log where we both sat down. He then described how when the Indian kills a moose he opens it up and at the back of the moose just above the kidney there are what he described as two small balls in the fat. These he said the Indian would take and cut up into as many pieces as there were little and big Indians in the family and each one would eat his piece. They would eat also the walls of the second stomach. By eating these parts of the animal the Indians would keep free from scurvy, which is due to the lack of vitamin C. The Indians were getting vitamin C from the adrenal glands and organs. Modern science has very recently discovered that the adrenal glands are the richest sources of vitamin C in all animal or plant tissues.

    Of course, J. Random member of the public avoiding foods he needn't when there's no need to and not getting his meat fresh nor knowing which cuts to eat and how to to prepare them would be asking for trouble.


    • #3
      I really like that story of the Indian. And as for those old 19th century scientists promoting theories contradicted by experience... well, thank goodness we live in the modern age of evidence-based diet advice. Oh, wait...

      The impression I got from the post was that the scurvy wasn't caused by a change in or lack of vitamin C intake at all - you'd think your average lower-carb diet, replacing grains etc with veg, would be higher in C if anything - but by failure of the C recycling mechanisms in the cells (which I didn't even know existed before I read the post).

      By the way, there's a note in the comments about a recent book on the many plants in the traditional Inuit diet.


      • #4
        Originally posted by Hilary View Post
        By the way, there's a note in the comments about a recent book on the many plants in the traditional Inuit diet.
        I suspect "many" would be stretching it. And, of course, the time of year is also relevant. So (aside from the stomach-contents of animals killed) some and that seasonally ... and perhaps some dried tubers.

        Besides, the Inuit are not the only Eskimos - the Mackenzie River Eskimo, judging by Stefansson's account (and he lived with them on and off for many years) had a diet with very few plant foods in it. He says they didn't even always eat was what available - effectively, they ate what they liked (e.g. cloudberries) ... unless there was a famine.


        • #5
          The Mackenzie River Eskimo? Tell me more, I grew up around the Mackenzie River.
          Calm the f**k down.


          • #6
            Selenium deficiency isn't a ZC problem. It's a problem of insufficient seafood or avoidance of a wide variety of organ meats (ie sweetbreads). Even 1-2 brazil nuts per day is sufficient.

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            • #7
              True. But the first mechanism he suggests rests on low insulin, which I suppose is a ZC problem, right?