Imagine the shock a set of parents in Spain felt when their infant son was diagnosed with scurvy.
You’re probably thinking, wait, isn’t that what plagued sailors of old? That can’t happen in modern Spain to an urban family. Scurvy occurs from a lack of vitamin C, so what was the baby eating?
For the first two months of life he was fed a cow’s milk formula but developed a rash, so he began drinking an almond based formula. At six months, his mom introduced pureed fruits and vegetables but he refused. So, up until eleven months, the toddler ate mostly a mixture of almond milk, almond flour and cereals.
His weight fell and X-rays showed bone density loss and a fracture of his right leg. His blood work was abnormal with extremely low levels of vitamins C and D. The doctor diagnosed him with infantile scurvy.
The growth and maintenance of our bones isn’t possible without vitamin C, especially in the first two years of life when bone growth is rapid. Scurvy can lead to anemia, gum disease and hemorrhages in the skin.
Since we can’t make our own vitamin C, we get it from fruits, vegetables or vitamin supplements. People most at risk of developing scurvy today include children with autism who refuse some foods, alcoholics, smokers, elderly, and people with low incomes.
But plant based formulas are becoming popular in developed countries, so parents need to be aware of the risks. Babies need 50-60 milligrams of vitamin C daily. Breast milk provides about 63 and reminds us of the benefits of breastfeeding.
Fortunately, the Spanish toddler was placed on vitamin C replacement therapy and soon recovered.