What is scurvy? James Blunt was diagnosed with the 'sailor's disease' after eating meat-only diet

Caroline Allen
·Contributor
·3 min read
The singer, photographed here at the 63rd BFI London Film Festival, went on a meat-only diet in protest of vegan friends. (Getty Images)
James Blunt, pictured here at the BFI London Film Festival in 2019, went on a meat-only diet. (Getty Images)

James Blunt has admitted that he contracted scurvy after going on a meat-only diet out of “principle” to take a stand against his vegan friends.

The You’re Beautiful singer, 46, became a carnivore for two months - consuming nothing but chicken and mince - after finding himself “surrounded by vegetarians”.

Blunt was eventually diagnosed with scurvy, a disease brought on by a lack in vitamin C.

Scurvy is becoming “a little more common in the UK” but is still considered rare, according to Azmina Govindji, spokesperson for the British Dietetic Association, who warns that cutting out any food group from your diet involves risks of “lacking essential nutrients”.

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Often referred to as “sailor’s disease”, scurvy was historically most common in sailors who were unable to get a balanced diet.

Govindji explains that the best way to achieve a “healthy diet” is by including all food groups.

“There's a place for animal and plant-based foods in a healthy diet,” she said.

“Completely taking away fruit, vegetables, beans and other plant-based foods can set you up for low levels of vitamin C, fibre and potassium: not having enough vitamin C can leave you feeling tired and lethargic.

“Certain types of fibre such as oats and barley can reduce your blood cholesterol levels; and potassium helps your heart muscle to work properly.

“Conversely, a well-designed plant-based diet, with the addition of vitamin B12, can be nutritionally adequate.”

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Symptoms of scurvy include weakness, feeling tired, and sore arms and legs. It is relatively easy to cure and is treated by adding vitamin C into your diet - which is usually found in fruit and vegetables.

Some doctors will also recommend a vitamin C supplement to increase the levels in your body.

Blunt developed the disease while studying at university.

“Out of principle I decided I'd become a carnivore and just lived on mince, some chicken, maybe with some mayonnaise,” he said on the podcast, Table Manners with Jessie Ware.

“And it took me about six to eight weeks to get very unhealthy and see a doctor, who then said 'I think you've got the symptoms of scurvy'.

“He said you are really lacking in vitamin C so I took it upon myself to drink orange juice every night - then I nearly developed acid reflux.”

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Despite the disease becoming a little more common in recent years, it’s still deemed as “rare” by the NHS.

Those who are on unusual or restrictive “fad diets”, eat very little food at all, have a poor diet and also smoke, or a poor diet and are also pregnant or breastfeeding, are at a slightly higher risk of contracting scurvy.

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