Historical Events

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Dr Charles Henry Ralfe discovers that a diet of only meat devoid of vegetables still prevents scurvy.

August 28, 1882

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Scurvy

Scurvy
Eskimo
Carnivore Diet

"Sir, I was struck by two independent observations which occurred in your columns last week in regard to the etiology of scurvy, both tending to controvert the generally received opinion that the exclusive cause of the disease is the.........

prolonged and complete withdrawal of succelent vegetatables from the dietary of those affected. 

Thus Mr. Neale, of the Eira Arctic Expedition, says: "I do not think that spirit or limejuiceis of much use as an antiscorbutic ; for if you live on the flesh of the country, even, I believe, without vegetables, you will run very little risk of scurvy."


Dr. Lucas writes: "In the case of the semi- savage hill tribes of Afghanistan and Beluchistan their food contains a large amount of meat, and is altogether devoid of vegetables. The singular immunity from scurvy of these races has struck me as a remarkable physiological circumstance, which should make us pause before accepting the vegetable doctrine in relation to scurvy." These observations do not stand alone. Arctic voyagers have long pointed out the antiscorbutic properties of fresh meat, and Baron Larrey, with regard to hot climates, arrived at the same conclusion in the Egyptian expedition under Bonaparte, at the end of last century."


President's Address: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/labs/pmc/articles/PMC2036671/pdf/medcht00012-0097.pdf


"Dr. Charles Henry Ralfe, the son of a naval officer, was born in 1842. He received his medical education at the Bath United Hospital and King's College, London. After having been House Surgeon at the Lock, he entered at Caius College, Cambridge, and graduated with honours in Natural Science. He first came before the public as a general practitioner at Doncaster, but in 1869 he established himself as a physician in London. He soon obtained the appointment of Registrar at Charing Cross, and availed himself of the opportunities there afforded to work at Physiological Chemistry. His labours bore fruit in 1873 in the shape of a small but useful handbook on that subject. Shortly after this he became attached to St. George's Hospital as Demonstratorof Physiological Chemistry, and to the Seamen's Hospital at Greenwich as Physician. He used his special knowledge and his clinical opportunities in the investigation of scurvy, a disease which cannot be said, as yet, to have given up its secret, but which Dr. Ralfe threw light upon in pointing out the deficiency in it, not only of potash, but of the alkaline phosphates. He left St. George's and Greenwich on becoming in 1880 Assistant Physician to the London Hospital, which he continued to be until within a few months of his death. Dr. Ralfe died of phthisis, sequent on diabetes, on the 26th of last June, at the age of fifty-four. He was a type of the best kind of physician. He used his opportunities for advancing knowledge with ability and success, and without the purpose of an advertiser. He was cultivated and well-read, upright and honorable, kindly and personally attractive. His loss will be regretted by all who knew him.