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ANSWERED on Wed 9 Apr 2008 - 2:23 am UTC by Bobbie Sevens

Question: Eskimos and vitamin C

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 8 Apr 2008 23:06 UTCTue 8 Apr 2008 - 11:06 pm UTC 

How on earth did Eskimos(prior to vitamin tablets), Eskimos get enough vitamin C? particularly in winter.  I would have thought that NOTHING grows there - particularly in winter - so no vegetable stuff.  Please correct me if I'm wrong.

Someone asked me how today - and I realised that I had no idea.


Bobbie Sevens 


 9 Apr 2008 02:23 UTCWed 9 Apr 2008 - 2:23 am UTC 

Hello Yaffle,

According to  my research, they obtained enough Vitamin C from meat that was raw or minimally cooked.

From the Arctic Studies Center:

How do people in the Arctic get enough Vitamin C and D if there is little sun and a limited amount of fresh fruits and vegetables?

". . . although there are scarcely any fresh fruits or vegetables available year round to eat in the Arctic, people gain the necessary amount of vitamin C through the consumption of raw meats, which are naturally high in vitamin C."
Arctic Studies Center

Vitamin C could be obtained from items in the Inuit's traditional diet of raw meat such as ringed seal liver and whale skin

"Lieb et al. (1926) published a case study of anthropologist Vilhjalmur Stefansson who lived with a group of Inuit.The study focused on the fact that the Inuit's extremely low-carbohydrate diet had not had adverse effects on Stefansson's health, nor that of the "Stefansson (1946) also observed that the Inuit were able to get the necessary vitamins they needed from their traditional winter diet, which did not contain plant matter. In particular, he found that adequate Vitamin C could be obtained from items in the Inuit's traditional diet of raw meat such as ringed seal liver and whale skin. While there was considerable skepticism when he reported these findings, they have been borne out in recent studies."

"In 1928 the arctic anthropologist and adventurer Vilhjalmur Stefansson attempted to prove his theory of how Eskimo (Inuit) people are able to avoid scurvy with almost no plant food in their diet. This had long been a puzzle because the disease had struck European arctic explorers living on similar high meat diets. Stefansson theorised that the native peoples of the arctic got their vitamin C from meat and offal that was raw or minimally cooked. Starting in February 1928 for one year he and a colleague lived on an animal flesh only diet under medical supervision at New York's Bellevue Hospital and remained healthy."
World of Molecules

According to Karen Fediuk, a consulting dietitian who did her master’s thesis on vitamin C "all it takes to ward off scurvy is a daily dose of 10 milligrams."

"Native foods easily supply those 10 milligrams of scurvy prevention, especially when organ meats "preferably raw" are on the menu. For a study published with Kuhnlein in 2002, Fediuk compared the vitamin C content of 100-gram (3.55-ounce) samples of foods eaten by Inuit women living in the Canadian Arctic: Raw caribou liver supplied almost 24 milligrams, seal brain close to 15 milligrams, and raw kelp more than 28 milligrams. Still higher levels were found in whale skin and muktuk."
Discover Magazine

Download "Vitamin C in the Inuit diet: past and present"
by Karen Fediuk, School of Dietetics and Human Nutrition" here:

"The Eskimo practice of eating their food in the raw, frozen, or lightly cooked state was a critical factor in presenting the small amounts of vitamin C necessary to prevent scurvy (less than 10 milligrams per day)."
JSTOR: The Aboriginal Eskimo Diet in Modern Perspective http://www.google.com/search?sourceid=navclient&ie=UTF-8&rlz=1T4GGLJ_enCL219CL221&q=%22The+Eskimo+practice+of+eating+their+food+in+the+raw%2c+frozen%2c+or+lightly+cooked+state+was+a+critical+factor+in+presening+the+small+amounts+of+vitamin+C%22

From Straight Dope:

"Why didn't Eskimos get scurvy before citrus was introduced to their diet? They have a traditional diet of almost entirely meat and fish. Where did they get their vitamin C?"

"Vitamin C can be found in a variety of traditional Eskimo/Inuit staples, including the skin of beluga whales (known as muktuk), which is said to contain as much vitamin C as oranges. Other reported sources include the organ meats of sea mammals as well as the stomach contents of caribou."

"Eskimos almost never contracted scurvy because they ate their meat raw: In a very revealing study conducted on vitamin C, scientists found that Eskimos almost never contracted scurvy. How fascinating. Eskimos also hardly ate vegetables - which contain high amounts of vitamin C. However they did eat lots of meat, raw meat. The study led to some very important findings. One, that meat contains high amounts of vitamin C. And two, that its nutritionally high vitamin C content was often compromised and destroyed by the cooking process."
Vitalogic: Aug 22, 2006

Vitamin C in the Diet of Inuit Hunters From Holman, Northwest Territories


"During the spring and summer months the diet of three Inuit families living in a seal hunting camp south of Holman, N.W.T., was studied. A total of 13 food items including the most commonly eaten mammal, bird and plant species were analysed for Vitamin C in both the raw and cooked state. We document a daily intake of ascorbic acid of between 11 and 118 mg and estimate a mean does of at least 30 mg."

See page 3 table 1:
Vitamin C content of raw and boiled food items of the Inuit diet

Arctic Institute of North America’s peer-reviewed journal Arctic , VOL. 32. NO. 2 (JUNE 1979), P. 135-139

I hope the information provided is helpful!

Best regards,




 9 Apr 2008 11:11 UTCWed 9 Apr 2008 - 11:11 am UTC 

A very good answer.  My question was fully answered.  Bobbie7 has done a good job.  I didn't know of high vitamin C in raw meat - and I suspect that not many do.


Bobbie Sevens 


 9 Apr 2008 15:14 UTCWed 9 Apr 2008 - 3:14 pm UTC 


Thank you for the tip!



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