Guinea Pigs and Scurvy
How do you induce scurvy in guinea pigs? Feed them whole grains.
Researchers found that an exclusive oatmeal diet would kill a guinea pig from scurvy in only 24 days. Now adding vitamin C rich foods (cabbage, orange juice) to the diet solves that, but people have wondered whether it was just the absence of those foods that was problem. Apparently, they tried germinated oats and barley and that wasn't nearly so bad, which ought to ring alarm bells. You'd have to wonder if it were anti-nutrients in the grains that were the essential problem.
The staggering thing is that these experiments were reported back in 1918.
I found this in Ramiel Nagel's book, which I'm reading at the moment. Interestingly, he says that he's found that many people who come to him with bad dental problems are heavy oat eaters. It seems oats are one of the worst cereal grains, because there's so much phytate in them. I had thought Nagel was a dentist. It seems rather that he's a lawyer. It cracks me up that people are going to a lawyer for advice on their teeth, but then he's likely doing a lot less damage than many professionals. I've never had a dentist give me any sensible dietary device (besides stay away from sugar), and their only other advice seems to be to brush and floss as frequently and painstakingly as possible (and its not clear that that isn't counter-productive).
So how to kill a guinea pig. And, yes, oats were eaten on Orkney with no ill effects, but then the diet was otherwise laden with high quality nutrients and besides we've little exact knowledge of how those people stored and prepared their oats, and possibly couldn't replicate it under modern conditions. Who leaves harvested crops unhulled to weather in the fields these days, for example?
The bottom line is that the dead guinea pigs appear to demonstrate, to quote Nagel, "the severity of plant toxins".
Oh, that reminds me: Robert Falcon Scott's men, if I'm not mistaken, ate a pound of biscuit a day along with their tinned meat (while man-hauling for the pole in specially designed clothing). Amundsen's party (who used dogs and furs) ate fresh-killed undercooked meat were free from scurvy. Sometimes new technology isn't best.
The British Navy's main diet in the high days of seamanship was mainly ship's biscuit (hard tack) made from flour and salt, and a tot of rum or water to wash it down. They had no fresh veg and no fresh meat. They were famous for developing scurvy, apparently cured by eating limes - hence Limies. Yet the Vikings, Columbus, Vasco Dagama et al who were just as great seafarers took with them on their journeys live animals to slaughter and caught fresh fish and seabirds. They suffered no such disease. It would seem that the ingestion of the hard tack - a meal of pure carbohydrate - simply stripped the vitamin C - an antioxidant - from the body during the processing of the oxidising carbohydrate. I see that with the advocacy of a carb heavy/fat light 'healthy' diet now advised on the general populus, especially children, scurvy is once again on the increase.
Last edited by Jillyan; 06-09-2011 at 08:24 AM.
Interesting study! Thanks for sharing!
You remind me—Amundsen also took cloudberries, which the Vikings had known about. How long they stay active I don't know.
Originally Posted by Jillyan
Scott's trouble was partly that the men of science—whom he conscientiously consulted—told him that fruit and vegetables (and fresh air and a few other things) were specifics against scurvy. He stopped in New Zealand and dutifully loaded up with them. Trouble is, once your fruit and veg is no longer fresh, it's no longer has so much vitamin C; and, of course, it eventually runs out. Freshly killed undercooked meat would have made the difference (though perhaps not if you load your body down with biscuit). Amundsen shot seal, and on the way back, as the loads got lighter, ate the dogs.
You might think Scott should have known, since perhaps the greatest explorer of the age—Nansen (a first-class scientist and a diplomat as well)—had already survived a whole winter on just meat without getting scurvy—and recorded as much in print. Nansen was also cooped up in a stuffy hut—so so much for the "not enough fresh air" notion.
But poor Scott trusted the scientists, and they thought different.
Shackleton's expedition was, ironically, fortunate in that his planning was poor. Shackleton followed the Scott model exactly, but, not being so painstaking or conscientious or his planning, didn't take enough food. Consequently, his men had to shoot fresh meat.