Rickets, Scurvy, and Beriberi
Today we know that our bodies need different sorts of food and vitamins to stay healthy. Children who do not eat well do not grow properly and can develop illnesses. One common illness that affected young people throughout history was called rickets.
Rickets is a bone disease that affects young people who do not eat enough vitamin D or get enough sunlight on their bodies. Their bones go soft and weak. this can make their legs bend under weight, making walking very difficult. Historians think that around half of all poor children around the world in the 1600s suffered from rickets.
Cod liver oil tastes horrible, but many people believe it does you good! For hundreds of years, children were given spoonfuls of cod liver oil. Many still are, but capsules now make it easier to swallow. Cod liver oil is rich in vitamin D and can sometimes stop children from rickets
In the 1650s an English doctor, called Francis Glisson, noticed that many young people had gum disease, loose teeth, and fever. They had a disease called scurvy.
Sailors could also get scurvy. They were at sea for many months, and they only ate the food that had been brought onto the ship. This did not include fruit, which contains vitamin C. A lack of vitamin C causes scurvy. Many young people were also not eating enough fruit, and without vitamin C, they were developing scurvy.
Vitamin B is found in whole cereals, bread, eggs, green vegetables, cheese, and nuts. People who did not eat enough vitamin B or B1 could also become weak and ill, and some would get a disease called beriberi. This can be cured with healthy diet, too.