Doctors discovered that scurvy has resurged at a major hospital in Sydney. The rare condition affected diabetic patients, and experts blame their poor modern dietary habits.
Scurvy, which is historically known to affect sailors who are deficient in vitamin C, has been found in two-thirds of diabetic patients whose wounds were not healing. According to Jenny Gunton, head of the Diabetes Center at Westmead Hospital, most of the patients overcook their vegetables, which destroy the vitamin, while one patient admitted to rarely eating them. Diabetic patients also avoid eating vitamin-rich fruits because these can increase their blood glucose levels.
Talking about the incident in one of her patients, Gunton said, “She just did not have a reason not to heal her ulcers and they’d been there for seven months and that’s just not right. When something doesn’t add up, you go and look for the unusual causes … so it all started with that. I asked her a few questions about her diet and while she ate veggies quite a few times a week, she cooked them a lot. So [I] tested her for vitamin C and zinc levels because they are both needed for normal wound healing and she came back with a vitamin C level of 10, and normal is 40 and up.”
The other patients who also have trouble healing their wounds underwent blood testing. According to Gunton, the disease affects even overweight or obese individuals.
The patients were then advised to take one tablet of vitamin C each day. Consequently, their wounds began to improve. These patients were also sent to a dietician, who taught them about how to take in sufficient amounts of the vitamin in their diets.
Although the condition was only found in these patients, Gunton believes that it could even be more widespread.
“That’s what I’m worried about. Many people do eat vegetables but cook them quite a lot, so if you add that to the picture of people not eating much fruit, I think you can wind up in trouble very easily,” Gunton added.