International Scurvy Awareness Day Date in the current year: May 2, 2024

International Scurvy Awareness Day International Scurvy Awareness Day is observed annually on May 2. It was created to raise awareness of the dangers of vitamin C deficiency and remind people about the importance of a healthy and balanced diet.

Scurvy is a disease that results from a lack of ascorbic acid (vitamin C) in the diet. The first symptoms occur after a month of little to no vitamin C intake; they include weakness, fatigue, and sore limbs. Without treatment, other symptoms start to develop, including changes to hair, gum disease, easy bleeding, poor wound healing, and personality changes. If further left untreated, scurvy may result in death from bleeding or infection.

Early descriptions of the symptoms scurvy date back to the time of ancient Egypt. The disease often affected seafarers who had no access to fresh food and thus limited long-distance sea travel. The knowledge that citrus fruit and some other products can cure scurvy had been repeatedly forgotten and rediscovered until the early 20th century. During the 18th century, more British sailors died from scurvy than were killed in action.

In 1907, Norwegian physicians Axel Holst and Theodor Frølich discovered that scurvy developed in guinea pigs that were fed solely with grain and could be prevented by supplementing their diet with lemon juice, fresh cabbage, or other known antiscorbutic products. Their findings were initially unpopular among the scientific community, but without them, the discovery of vitamin C by the Hungarian biochemist Albert Szent-Györgyi wouldn’t have been possible.

Once the link between scurvy and vitamin C was discovered and proven, the disease became easily preventable and treatable. To prevent scurvy, one needs to make sure their diet includes products rich in vitamin C, preferably uncooked because cooking reduces the amount of vitamin C. The best plant sources of ascorbic acid include sea buckthorn, guava, blackcurrant, bell pepper, kale, parsley, broccoli, kiwifruit, Brussels sprouts, redcurrant, cloudberry, elderberry, strawberry, papaya, citrus fruit, pineapple, cabbage, spinach, and mango.

Although rates of scurvy are low in most of the world, the disease still affects thousands of people globally. It is more common in developing countries, especially among refugees, but certain groups of people in developed countries can be affected by scurvy as well. They include the homeless, poor, low-income college students, people with mental disorders, alcoholism or unusual eating habits, people living in neighborhoods where fresh fruit and vegetables are hard to come by, and elderly people living alone.

Scurvy isn’t a thing of the past, as you see, and International Scurvy Awareness Day is relevant even today. The origins of the observance are unclear, but it definitely deserves our attention. You can observe Scurvy Awareness Day by learning more about vitamin C deficiency and the ways to prevent it, committing to eating healthier, donating to or volunteering for a nonprofit that fights hunger in the developing world, and spreading the word on social media with the hashtags #InternationalScurvyAwarenessDay and #ScurvyAwarenessDay.

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International Scurvy Awareness Day, international observances, scurvy, vitamin C deficiency, scurvy prevention