In the modern world, we don’t think of malnutrition as something found in wealthy countries, like the United States. And yet, a notorious 18th century disease caused by the lack of a single vitamin has been rearing its head in a nation that wastes a quarter of its food every year.
Vitamin C was only discovered in 1912, but long before that Scottish physician James Lind figured out that citrus fruit could cure scurvy – a disease we now know is caused by the simple lack of vitamin C.
We’re used to thinking of scurvy as a historical ailment. In the great Age of Exploration, long sea voyages with limited food options saw hundreds of sailors succumb to the devastating symptoms until a cure was found.
But scurvy is not gone from the face of the planet. In fact, it’s making a heartbreaking comeback in a place we wouldn’t even think to look, as highlighted in a new documentary called Vitamania, hosted by science YouTube star Derek Muller (of Veritasium fame).
Bleeding gums, decaying teeth, thinning hair and overwhelming fatigue were the symptoms that drove Sonny Lopez from Springfield, Massachusetts to the office of medical doctor Eric Churchill.
These turned out to be signs of scurvy – something doctors can easily overlook in this day and age, even though it can be deadly if left untreated. But for Churchill, this wasn’t even the first patient who showed up suffering from this deficiency.
“We diagnosed our first case about five to six years ago. The initial case came through the hospital and was quite dramatic, someone with a mental health issue who would only eat bread and cheese,” Churchill told ScienceAlert.
“Between then and now we have diagnosed somewhere between 20 and 30 cases of scurvy.”
Read more at ScienceAlert