How Do Carnivores Get Vitamin C? Is Scurvy An Issue?

Vitamin C is required for production of many things within our bodies, among them collagen and other helpful items. Is it necessary, the jury is still out.
Josh Koop
January 13, 2020

One of the most frequent arguments brought up against the Carnivore Diet or other low carb diets. That without taking in enough vegetables you will end up with scurvy, like the pirates and sailors of old. While this has no basis in facts the swirling winds of mistruth continue to spread themselves.

How Do Carnivores Get Vitamin C? There is Vitamin C in all meats but the levels have never been fully tested and validated. Instead due to the lack of carbs and anti-nutrients in plants we absorb the little we need without competition for the receptor meaning there is less need to consume more.

Let's explore more about what Vitamin C is necessary for and why we believe that we have specific sources which can only provide this. As well as dive into why we need so much more Vitamin C when we eat vegetables.

How Do Carnivores Get Vitamin C - Vitamin c tablets and liquid bottles with orange slices
Vitamin c tablets and liquid bottles with orange slices

Do You Need Vitamin C on a Carnivore Diet?

Yes, each person needs Vitamin C, where the arguments come from is how much and where they are available for our body to use. We have long been told that only vegetables contain the levels of Vitamin C we need, the reason for this is that meat contains Vitamin C but not as high as most vegetables.

Vitamin C is required for your bodies correct functionality, instead of asking whether you need Vitamin C the correct question is more along the lines of:

Do we need much Vitamin C on a low inflammation diet?

You see what happens when you consume plants you get anti-nutrients which block absorption of Vitamin C and many other vitamins and minerals. So taking in a high amount of Vitamin C is required when the plants are also attempting to stop you from using them for food.

Vitamin C and Glucose are similar structurally and share the same uptake pathway in the body (link). They basically compete for the same receptor, which has a greater affinity for glucose. So the less glucose (carbs) you consume, the less vitamin C you actually need.

How to Get Vitamin C on a Carnivore Diet

For a carnivore diet you still have multiple methods of how you can add in Vitamin C to your diet if you feel you need to add more. The most common way is the same as you would approach it on your current diet which is to supplement with a vitamin or multi-vitamin. While not ideal this is a solid strategy but be aware that a high amount of what you consume through supplementation you will urinate out.

The preferred method on a carnivore diet to add additional Vitamin C into your diet would be to start eating liver, like our parents and their parents before them. Liver, in particular, pork liver contains a very high amount of Vitamin C and may be a key as to why our parents and grandparents thrived and we have started to stumble into this fast food generation.

In regards to "fast food" I am not only stating restaurants like Burger King, I am meaning grocery stores and pre-packaged junk frankenfoods which prey on our brains by making them hyper-palatable.

Is Vitamin C Found in Meat?

Vitamin C is found in all muscle meats in typically lower amounts than the vegetable sources. While this may appear on the outside to prove we want veggies for the content of Vitamin C, well you absorb the meat based vitamins much better than their vegetable cousins. This means that maybe by volume it is less but by functionality it is a far more usable in your body and also far less anti-nutrient issues.

Dr Ken Berry Covering Carnivore Diets and Vitamin C

What Is Scurvy?

Scurvy is a disease caused by a lack of Vitamin C and was named "sailors disease" due to the occurrence from sailors out in the ocean for months. Sailors would get this due to the lack of quality foods since they didn't have refrigeration which caused them to need to bring long shelf life foods.

A disease caused by a deficiency of vitamin C, characterized by swollen bleeding gums and the opening of previously healed wounds, which particularly affected poorly nourished sailors until the end of the 18th century.

Oxford Dictionary

Scurvy occurs when there is a lack of vitamin C for a long duration. This deficiency eventually leads to symptoms of weakness, anemia, gum disease, and skin problems.

These issues occur as vitamin C is a needed part in our bodies ability to make collagen, an vital component in connective tissues. Connective tissues are essential for structure and support in the body, including the structure of blood vessels.

A lack of vitamin C will also affect the immune system, absorption of iron, metabolism of cholesterol and other functions. Vitamin C is also needed for synthesizing dopamine, norepinephrine, epinephrine, and carnitine, needed for energy production.

How Do You Get Scurvy?

If you are eating a very nutrient poor diet like the Standard American Diet you will have vitamin issues and will want to supplement to ensure there is enough in your body to facilitate functioning. When you eat a nutrient dense meal your body can take the nutrients from the food you eat making supplementation unnecessary and at best a waste of your money.

The way you get scurvy is only when your body has no more available vitamin C and you aren't consuming enough foods with Vitamin C to negate this issue.

The onset of the symptoms from scurvy will depend on the length of time that it takes for you to use up your limited body storage of vitamin C. The human body isn't able to make vitamin C on its own so it is vital to get from foods. On average the onset of symptoms related to the deficiency is about four weeks.

Why Carnivores Don't Get Scurvy

Since Vitamin C is required to make collagen it is required for us to consume, you know what else has large amounts of collagen, meat, especially red meat. At some point our governments decided not to measure this amount and instead to set it as zero.

Which brings me to my final question. Since Vitamin C is known to prevent scurvy, which is an inability of your body to make connective tissue; doesn’t it make sense that an animals connective tissue would then contain everything you need to make your own?

When you aren't consuming carbohydrates at the level of the standard western diet you don't have the same issues of glucose fighting to be received. This allows for a better uptick on less levels of Vitamin C which is more than likely why a carnivorous diet works out so well for many.

Final Thoughts

Hopefully I have helped shed some light on the carnivore diet and your intake of vitamin C to ward of scurvy. There is no actual proof that we require fruits and vegetables to reach our needs of vitamin C, and hundreds and thousands of people who have been living over ten years without vegetables and fruit would agree with me on this thought.

If you read this far you are amazing! I would love to hear from you in the comments below if I helped you gain knowledge and useful information, additionally I would like to know if I got anything incorrect that you believe should be researched more and updated. As always to get the word out please join our new Carnivore Rx group on Facebook and share this out on social media!

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