Australians battling scurvy: the disease you’d never expect to hear about in modern societ

HISTORICALLY associated with old-world sailors on long voyages, scurvy appears to have made a comeback in Australia.


And it can be blamed on poor diet, says Professor Jenny Gunton. Caused by a lack of vitamin C, the disease has been detected in a number of Sydney patients at Westmead Hospital.

Prof Gunton from the Centre for Diabetes, Obesity and Endocrinology says several of her patients with long-running unhealed wounds were cured by a simple course of vitamin C.

A lack of vitamin C in the body results in the defective formation of collagen and connective tissues, which can cause bruising, bleeding gums, blood spots in the skin, joint pain and impaired wound healing.

When the patients were asked about their diet, one was eating little or no fresh fruit and vegetables.

The rest ate fair amounts of vegetables but were over-cooking them, which destroys the vitamin C.

Prof Gunton, who has had her research paper published in the international journal Diabetic Medicine, says despite the large amounts of dietary advice available there are still plenty of people, “from all walks of life”, who aren’t getting the messages.

“Human bodies cannot synthesise vitamin C, so we must eat foods containing it,” she said.

Common foods which are high in vitamin C include oranges, strawberries, red and green peppers including capsicums, broccoli, kiwi fruit and grapefruit. Overcooking any food is likely to destroy the vitamin C.

Prof Gunton advises clinicians to be on alert for the potential problem in diabetes patients, particularly if they present with unhealed ulcers, easy bruising or gum bleeding without obvious cause.

Originally published as Icky illness we thought was history

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