Zero Carb Diet Gone Wrong – Scurvy

The Zero Carb people at Zeroinginonhealth (ZIOH) have always praised pemmican as the “perfect” food. Pemmican is made from dried, raw meat that is ground up and then mixed with fat. They also believe that you can live on it “indefinitely” as some explorer (Stefansson) claimed so in a book, making this statement despite there being no evidence that anybody has survived on pemmican-only for any extended period of time. Any supplements are not required as muscle meat will provide all nutrition you need, they claim.

It seems that they are wrong. One of the ZIOH members ended up in the hospital where he was diagnosed with scurvy, Vitamin C deficiency. You can read about his physical issues here: Pemmi-pucks Inc, where he documents his 13 weeks eating nothing else than homemade pemmican.

The symptoms he exhibited were:

All of these are indicative of scurvy. Wikipedia says:

Early symptoms are malaise and lethargy. After 1-3 months, patients develop shortness of breath and bone pain. Myalgias may occur because of reduced carnitine production. Other symptoms include skin changes with roughness, easy bruising and petechiae, gum disease, loosening of teeth, poor wound healing, and emotional changes.

This is a picture he posted showing the leg bruising:

He is now being treated with liquid vitamins C and K and Folic acid and the good news is that Vitamin C deficiency / scurvy is easily cured and results in no lasting damage.

Other zero carbers may want to re-think use of supplements, and implement a more varied diet including fresh meat, dairy, eggs and organ meat. Pemmican was originally a travel / emergency food and it might be a good idea to use it that way – complementing other foods and not totally replacing them. Even their Leader Charles realized this after having been eating pemmican-only for a couple of months. Fatigue (see first scurvy symptom above) caused him to give it up and go back to fresh meat.

If you enjoyed this post, please consider to leave a comment or subscribe to the feed and get future articles delivered to your feed reader.


It’s interesting to note that the earliest symptoms of scurvy are malaise, fatigue, and depressed mood. Years ago when scurvy was so rampant among sailors, ships’ captains would require sailors to participate in dancing, singing, and other types of merriment because it was thought doing so would help prevent scurvy (they were confusing cause and effect). Anyway, it makes me wonder if the many people who have abandoned zero carb did so because they were manifesting these initial signs of scurvy. Most people in search of good health aren’t going to stick with a diet if they start feeling like crap, even if the diet initially made them feel good.

Thanks for blogging on this important issue. Scurvy, though very treatable, can be fatal.

“malise, fatigue, and depressed mood”? Wow, talk about non-specific symptoms.

I doubt many folks on ZC have scurvy, or left for that reason. It takes quite a bit to be at risk. I did a 3.5 month experiment with just muscle meat, water and no supplements, and had no issues. In Mel’s case, he has had problems with diarrhea and, consequently, absorbing nutrients. There was also the pure pemmican aspect of his diet. I don’t get the fascination with living on pemmican. There is historical evidence for surviving on it for months, and it makes a great travel food, but I don’t see the benefit of it beyond that. It’s also more difficult to make than a steak or a roast.

The central ZIOH thesis, that muscle meat is sufficient to sustain health, I see as interesting and not resolved either way yet. At a minimum, so far, they’re righter than most folks 5 years ago would have guessed though.

That said, I don’t see any reason to avoid eggs and organs, and see some good reasons to eat them.


? Maybe I missed something? When I read his blog he said he was diagnosed with a folic acid deficiency, not scurvy?

The end result was an emergency stay at the hospital. for most of the last week. The results of a the testing they did on me are not in right now but the primary diagnosis is Folic Acid deficiency. What that meant was I was bleeding inside my body, at the knees, and by the time I got to see the specialist on Wednesday last week I had lost half of my bodies blood into my soft tissue, mostly around the knees. Not a good thing. I am currently supplementing with Folic Acid for the next 3 months.

lois – Scurvy is not a word they want to use at ZIOH as they don’t believe you can get scurvy when you eat meat only. At the time he wrote his blog post, the vit C tests were not yet in but vit C deficiency was eventually confirmed. In his journal at ZIOH, he did state that he was supplementing with vit C in addition to the folic acid and I don’t know the reason for omitting this in his blog post.

I’m fairly certain that a person with the username “tractor” at the Obesity Discussion forum is the same individual as the ZIOH member who was diagnosed with scurvy (same age, same locale, same amount of weight lost over the same time period, claims of being ZC and living exclusively on pemmican, “tractor” was even the ZIOH member’s original username).

In a post on 6/10/10, tractor posted this on the Obesity Discussion site: “I can go a week sometimes without a BM or daily. Where does it say that you HAVE to go a few times a day?”

On ZIOH, he claims to have had a chronic diarrhea problem for years now. Yet on OD, he implies that his bowel habits are unremarkable and as long as 7 days apart. So why the duplicity?

Is he now overstating his bowel problems to explain the vitamin deficiencies because he doesn’t want to believe that his diet did it?

Could be.

Interesting, KWN. You really have no idea what is true or not of what people post on the internet.
Another ZIOH member reported today on folic acid deficiency as determined by blood tests. Several of the women there are discussing hair loss and have started to supplement with biotin. Not unexpectedly, Charles has not commented on any of these issues.

Hello, ZIOH,

A reader referenced your post here, on, and Steve Phinney, a world expert on VERY low carb diets, responded. If you’d like to read what Steve Phinney has to say, go to, and check his comment on the post regarding Pemmican. The URL is:

The condition Mel is suffering from has nothing to do with his diet. He’s been bitching about his diarrhea issues to me for years well before he went zero-carb. How dare you speculate on another person’s health issues when you are ignorant of all the facts? How dare you speculate that he is “Tracker” and is posting under more than one name? How dare you speculate about a diet you know nothing abou?

Time for you people to spend more time on research and less time on gossip and speculation.

Mel doesn’t need me to stand up for him as he knows the truth. Sorry Mel!

Kateryna, the oldest sister
(who just found this because she doesn’t spend all her time gossiping on the internet and who herself has zero-carbed and felt better than she has in decades)

Mel DOESN’T feel better than he has in decades. He’s been diagnosed with ailments directly related to nutritional deficiency and the fact that the treatments have made a difference proves the doctors aren’t as clueless as you’d believe. ZC didn’t solve his diarrhea and probably have been a contributing factor or direct cause to serious medical issues.

It’s great that you are doing so well but you hardly represent the population of ZC followers.

You don’t get scurvy on all meat diets because meat contains the very things Vit C is used to make.

Vitamin C is needed to hydroxylate the amino acids lysine and proline into hydroxylysine and hydroxyproline- connective tissue. That is why scurvy is characterized by a degeneration of connective tissue. However, meat already contains hydroxylysine and hydroxyproline which is absorbed into the bloodstream when eaten.

It’s like telling someone who gets plenty of vitamin A that they aren’t getting enough beta carotene.

Leave a comment