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Tuesday, June 23, 2015

The Scary Scoop on Scurvy -- Or Why Pirates Have Bad Teeth

The Scary Scoop on Scurvy -- Or Why Pirates Have Bad Teeth
Why do pirates have bad teeth? A lack of vitamin C. Scurvy is one of those diseases that people often associate with sailors back in the 15th to 18th centuries because they couldn't take perishable food on board and seriously lacked vitamin C. But did you know that even today, you can get scurvy?

What causes scurvy

Scurvy is a disease caused by a lack of vitamin C (ascorbic acid). The symptoms of scurvy include anemia, weakness, exhaustion, edema (swelling) in some parts of the body, and gums that become ulcerated, leading to loss of teeth. What is surprising about scurvy is that it still occurs in developed countries, according to the National Institutes of Health, and affects 10-14 percent of the population.


Anyone with a vitamin C deficiency can get scurvy. Those most susceptible are the elderly and alcoholics who are more likely to live on a diet that does not include fruit. Pregnant women who lack sufficient amounts of vitamin C can not only get scurvy but risk the health of their unborn child whose brain may not develop properly due to a vitamin C deficiency.

Other symptoms of scurvy include fever, irritability, appetite loss and poor weight gain, diarrhea, rapid breathing, tenderness and discomfort in the legs, swelling over long bones, bleeding (hemorrhaging), and paralysis. If you are someone you know has any of these symptoms, seek medical help immediately. Scurvy is real and alive today, and it's curable.

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