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Did Captain Scott's Diet Play a Part in His Death?

Hugh Pickens writes (1984118) writes | more than 2 years ago

Medicine 0

Hugh Pickens writes writes "BBC reports that a century ago today Robert Falcon Scott made his last entry in his diary as he and his men perished on their return from the South Pole leading modern nutritionists to ask if their diet contributed to their deaths? Georgina Cronin, of the Scott Polar Research Institute in Cambridge, believes "they underestimated the calories needed for man-hauling in Antarctica — this is partly why they suffered so much." Their rations consisted of pemmican (ground meat mixed with fat), and biscuits made into a stew called hoosh with the addition of arrowroot and raisins for variety. Man-hauling a sledge demands an intake of around 6,000 to 7,000 calories a day, and figures as high as 11,000 have been recorded. They believed a high level of protein was needed for the exercise they were doing, but nutritionists now know this was not the case. "Their high-protein diet was probably not good for them," says Dr Mike Stroud, a polar veteran and expert in nutrition. So what should they have been eating? "Carbohydrate is needed for blood sugar levels, but you want the most energy for the least weight, so in modern times there has been a move to a high-fat diet," says Stroud. Ultimately, Scott and his men did not fully appreciate the nutritional demands they put on themselves. Ration amounts were based on trial and error and at 4,500 calories a day fell well short of what was needed. "You don't just lose fat, you lose muscle as well. You can't keep warm," said Dr Stroud, who himself experienced starvation when he crossed Antarctica with Sir Ranulph Fiennes in 1992. "By the time they reached the Ross Ice Shelf, they would have been emaciated.""

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