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Hoax - Eating Shrimp and Taking Vitamin C Can Cause Death by Arsenic Poisoning

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Circulating health message warns recipients not to eat shrimp or prawns while taking vitamin C because it can cause a chemical reaction that can lead to sudden death by arsenic poisoning.

Vitamin c
© Reisinger

Brief Analysis

The claims in the message are nonsense. There are no credible references that back up the claims in the message and no reported deaths like the one described. The picture included in the message shows a young woman shot and killed in a protest and has no connection whatsoever with arsenic poisoning. Sending on this false information will help nobody.



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Subject: Fw: Please read if you eat shrimps - Very Educative

----- YOU MAY POISON YOURSELF ACCIDENTALLY (I didn't know this myself)

Neda Agha Soltan

A woman suddenly died unexpectedly with signs of bleeding from her ears, nose, mouth & eyes.
After a preliminary autopsy it was diagnosed that death was due to arsenic poisoning.
Where did the arsenic come from?
The police launched an in-depth and extensive investigation. A medical school professor was invited to come to solve the case.

The professor carefully looked at the contents from the stomach. In less than half an hour, the mystery was solved.
The professor said: 'The deceased did not commit suicide and neither was she murdered, she died of accidental death due to ignorance!' Everyone was puzzled, why accidental death? The professor said: 'The arsenic was produced in the stomach of the deceased.' The deceased used to take 'Vitamin C' everyday, which in itself is not a problem. The problem was that she ate a large portion of shrimp/prawn during dinner. Eating shrimp/prawn is not the problem that's why nothing happened to her family even though they had the same shrimp/prawn. However at the same time the deceased also took 'vitamin C', that is where the problem was!

Shrimp Meal

Researchers at the University of Chicago in the United States , found through experiments, food such as soft-shell contain much higher concentration of five potassium arsenic compounds.

Such fresh food by itself has no toxic effects on the human body.

However, in taking 'vitamin C', chemical reaction occurs and the original non-toxic elements change to toxic elements.

Vitamin C Graphic

Arsenic poisoning has magma role and can cause paralysis to the small blood vessels. Therefore, a person who dies of arsenic poisoning will show signs of bleeding from the ears, nose, mouth & eyes. Thus as a precautionary measure,

DO NOT eat shrimp/prawn when taking 'vitamin C'.

After reading this; please do not be stingy. Forward to your friends

Detailed Analysis

According to this supposed health warning, which has circulated since at least 2001, people who are taking vitamin C should not eat shrimp (prawns) because the two can combine in the body and cause a chemical reaction that leads to sudden and violent death by arsenic poisoning. The message claims that vitamin C can change non-toxic elements in the food to arsenic thereby causing poisoning and death. The message describes an incident in which a woman suddenly died after eating shrimp and taking vitamin C and even includes a photograph supposedly depicting the unfortunate arsenic poisoning victim's bloody face after her demise.

However, the claims in the message are utter nonsense. The claim that vitamin C can transform non-toxic elements into arsenic and cause death has no factual basis. And, there have been no reported deaths or illnesses related to a supposedly toxic combination of vitamin C and seafood.

Moreover, the picture in this version of the message does not depict an arsenic poisoning victim. In fact, the picture shows the bloodied face of Neda Agha Soltan who was shot and killed during an election protest in Iran in June, 2009.

Arsenic is a naturally occurring and widely distributed element found in soils and minerals. It is taken in by humans via food, water or air. Seafood is a significant contributor to arsenic in the human diet. However, most arsenic in food is made of less harmful organic forms rather than the more dangerous inorganic form. Make no mistake, arsenic is certainly toxic to humans. Low levels of arsenic exposure can cause many health problems while high exposure can cause death. Nevertheless, vitamin C does not possess properties that allow it to magically transform non-toxic elements into arsenic.

Medical scientists have, in several studies, examined the interactions between vitamin C and arsenic. Ironically, some medical studies have suggested that the administration of vitamin C and other substances combined may actually play a useful, if limited, role in counteracting chronic arsenic toxicity. And other studies have investigated how vitamin C combined with Arsenic Trioxide may increase the effectiveness of the drug as a cancer therapy. But, no credible studies have suggested that vitamin C can actually create arsenic in our bodies by changing the chemical properties of other non-toxic substances. Such claims are more akin to alchemy than science.

Given the popularity of seafood all around the world combined with the widespread use of vitamin C supplements, if true, such deadly poisoning would be commonplace. If the combination was as deadly as described in the warning, even people who consumed vitamin C from natural sources such as citrus fruit - a fruit that often accompanies seafood - would presumably be experiencing at least some symptoms of arsenic poisoning. But, as noted above, there are no reports of deaths or even illnesses caused by this supposedly deadly combination of vitamin C and seafood.

And, of course, if the danger was in any way real, warnings about it would not circulate only in the form of a poorly worded and unverified email or social media message. If true, the danger would be very well documented in many medical and media reports.

In short, the message is an absurd hoax. And the perpetrator of this version of the hoax has callously and wilfully used the tragic death of a young woman to make the ridiculous claims in the message seem a little more believable. To have any use at all, circulated medical warnings must contain credible and accurate information that can be confirmed via credible medical resources. Otherwise, they are counterproductive and - in some cases - potentially dangerous. It is important that Internet users always check the veracity of medical warnings they receive before they send them on to others.

If you receive this message, do not pass it on to others. And please take the time to let the sender know that the message is a hoax.



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Last updated: August 7, 2015
First published: 23rd February 2012
By Brett M. Christensen
About Hoax-Slayer

Neda Agha Soltan
Neda Agha-Soltan - YouTube
Survey of arsenic in fish and shellfish
Arsenic Toxicity in Emergency Medicine
Chronic arsenic poisoning in the rat: treatment with combined administration of succimers and an antioxidant.
A Cancer Therapy Odd Couple: Vitamin C and Arsenic Trioxide