Can shrimp and vitamin C kill you?

No.

Well, that’s the short answer anyway. Today I received an email from a reader which claimed (in broken English – not the reader’s) that eating shrimp or prawns while taking a vitamin C supplement can cause the shrimp to react in your stomach and emit enough arsenic to kill you dead.

Here is the email:

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< h (sic). 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!
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.
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

All of the classic elements of a hoax email are wrapped up with a lovely red bow here.

  • Threat of sudden, terrible death
  • Lack of specific details about who the woman is, where this happened, and when this happened.
  • Something seemingly innocuous that will cause the terrible death.

Right off the bat I am deeply skeptical about the purported effects of arsenic, that it

has magma role and can cause paralysis to the small blood vessels.

This is absolute bullshit.

Symptoms of arsenic poisoning include headaches, confusion, diarrhoea and drowsiness. And you can be exposed to a lot of arsenic for a long time before you start to notice the overt signs of the poison in your system: convulsions (hard to miss), white lines across your fingernails, horrible blisters, hair loss… it’s not pleasant.

While arsenic is the preferred tool of the evil housewife who likes to watch her husband suffer a slow and painful death, it can also kill you quickly. An acute dose of arsenic will cause massive nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, kidney failure, coma and, eventually, death.

This does not match the “paralysed blood vessels” story.

Furthermore, shrimp does not turn into arsenic when it encounters vitamin C. It just doesn’t happen. Shrimp may contain low levels of arsenic, as it is a basic element and occurs naturally in the environment, but it is not a dangerous dose and your body can deal with it. Unless you eat shrimp until you sprout those weird antennae, then you might be in trouble.

I can find no research which indicates that shrimp and vitamin C can have a magical party in your tummy and turn into arsenic. Nor can I find any news relating to such a death.

Finally, and I think this is worth pointing out, if you have an allergy to shellfish, they could kill you. and if you take an extremely high dose of vitamin C it can also be very dangerous. But this is NOT the same thing. (Incidentally, there is no evidence that vitamin C taken for colds and flu has any positive effect, so you can stop wasting your money on it).

This is a hoax. Do not forward it on to your friends and family. Just press delete.

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31 responses to “Can shrimp and vitamin C kill you?

  1. After I ate prawn (inside my meal), i had consume my vitamin c, and i start to panic, i’ve heard a rumors about the dangerous cause if we combining this two food, this article at least made me calm T_T

  2. Thanks for this article. A lot of people seem to think that they immediately know the cause of something if there is even a slight (albeit fuzzy) correlation between different events, without knowing that there are so many variables that can affect the outcome.

    Thank goodness your page comes up pretty high in search engines – hopefully a lot of people stumble across this page and be informed as soon as possible.

  3. It is astonishing how similar these hoax eMails are. Is there perhaps a “make a Hoax Email” application out there. They are usually light on specifics too, names, ages, locations, original sources, … . But you don’t need to debunk the nonsensical content of the eMail. That encouragement to send a copy to all your friends is sufficient to mark it out as a Hoax

  4. A study by the University of Illinois in 1985 proved that taking larger doses of vitamin C while taking shrimp converts the arsenic in shrimp from the organic to the inorganic form- what the Illinois researchers found is that the doses of vitamin C convert the pentavalent arsenic compounds in shrimp- less toxic to the more toxic trivalent arsenic. Cysteine also can do a similar thing. Trivalent arsenic is highly toxic but to kill this would take many such meals over a period of time– to kill or cause harm. Vitamin C is vital to human health and really does protect the body from cancer in the general sense so one would be wise to eat the Vitamin C hours away from eating shrimp or other seafood. Whatever you do, don’t stop taking vitamin C.

    • Hi James, I will have to insist that you provide sources to back up both claims; that vitamin C causes a change in arsenic and that it has any positive benefits in fighting cancer.

      As far as I’m aware, large doses of vitamin C have no cancer fighting properties and are dangerous to the human body on their own.

    • Could you please provide the source of the study? In which paper did that article published? This message is spreading virally in my country and people believe it without any evidence.

  5. Lots of discussion here, but not much action. I took the liberty to test this on myself. I just finished eating a large plate of shrimp, fried with whole shell intact and ate my regular dose of vitamin C.

    I am currently bleeding from my toes and fingernails. Just kidding, everything is fine. Ay Carumba. Whoever believed this crazy poisoning story has been properly trolled.
    Get it together people.

  6. that simply make sense. arsenic is just a simple element, there’s no need of any substance or vitamin to chemically transform it.

    • Very interesting link, thank you. When I researched this article, I didn’t find this.

      This actually comes from 1985. So it has been around for quite a long time.

      I think it is important to point out that the article you link warns of the possible long-term side effect of exposure to arsenic. However, nothing in this email suggests that the person died of arsenic poisoning as none of the alleged symptoms are those of arsenic exposure.

      Seriously, do YOUR research. The link you provided, while interesting, does not invalidate my position.

  7. At first, I didn’t believe shrimp vs Vc cause poisoned until it happened to me today. Shrimp w/shell vs any fruits that contain Vc do cause sickness, such as throw up, stomachache,and breaking blood vessels.

  8. I just confirmed again with my senior in the lab, base on him, a third year phd in biochem, it confirmed my guess. The reaction can happen in the lab with enzyme. But in human body, it Takes lots As ions and vitamin to occur. Most As ions in shrimp are in organic form, so it can be quickly disgusted and get out of human body. So if people really wanna die because of this poisoning, they need to eat 500mg vitamin with/right after highly polluted water grown shrimps. 500mg VC is 5 pills of 100mg VC or around 10 oranges, 50 apples… If a person really did this…he or she probably just committed suicide….just quote what my senior said…lol So it’s easy to get poison level, let’s say eating polluted shrimp in third world country like mine, and drink fresh juice made with half pineapple or something. But its not a problem for America, and either case, no one will die.

    • Thank you Waits a Sec, it reminds me of a statistic I heard a few years ago; if you want to overdose on pot you have to smoke 80 kilograms of it. That number is probably false, but the idea remains the same, you would have to try really, really hard.
      And there is a big difference between “it could happen in theory” and “it happened”.

      Thank you for your input.

  9. Just a random blog reader here, I wanna point out its not out of no where. Because nowadays seafood get polluted a lot with industrial waste, so they contain As5+, it is not harmful for ppl at all. But VC is pro oxidant, so As5+ becomes As3+, which is highly poisoning. From pure chemistry, the statement is true. Ask any chemistry major like me, they can write the reaction equation for you. But, I’m not saying if you have both, you will die, because chemical reactions take time to occur, if your body has the enzyme for it, also it depends on how much As5+ in the shrimp and how immediately u eat VC, as if the VC will “spend enough time with shrimp” in your stomache for chemical reaction to happen. So ppl just eat shrimp with lemon juice and they are fine. Such small dose wont result anything and FDA actually did a good job. I would say if you are eating shrimp that is not “clean”, just don’t have VC, just in case. Don’t have shrimp and fruit together is a common known fact in south eastern Asian countries, where I’m from. our seafood is not taken care well, ampunt of As is always above the limit. They shouldnt be on the market, but they are…so seafood +VC poison actually occurs quite often in the summer when ppl just wanna have cold juice after having seafood. Out media stressed on this a lot. But I’ve never heard anyone actually died because of it. As3+ surely is highly poisoning, but it takes couple hours to kill a person, most ppl will be sent to hospital during that time frame. And ppl don’t get high dose of it either. I suggest don’t go to Chinatown get seafood and have a fresh fruit smoothie right after..that may cause problem.

  10. I sometimes wonder what motivates the people who send this crap. Either hysterical gullibility or malicious intent, since nothing in between would make it worthwhile to compose the email.

    • I think it starts either with malicious intent or really bad information (it’s possible) and then gets passed from one gullible person to the next for eight years with only a couple of people bothering to check the claims in between.

  11. Ever noticed that the people who send hoax emails are terrible writers to begin with? Even for the April issue, this would never get past my editor.

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