Background: In an article in J. Orthomolecular Medicine 2002; 17(4):193-196, C. Alan B. Clemetson, M.D. wrote, in part: "Not many people are aware that 'Popeye the Sailor Man' was a well recognized character to be seen around any English seaport in the days of sail. The protrusion of one eye was due to a hemorrhage behind the eye ball due to scurvy; this was only one of many hemorrhages...His pipe juts up in front of his face because he has lost all his teeth to scurvy and he is holding his pipe between his upper and lower gums..."

However, Segar, Popeye's creator, claimed the character was modeled after a coal miner whom the cartoonist knew. That would appear to put the kibosh on Dr. Clemetson's theory, but perhaps not: For all we know, scurvy might have run rampant in the coal mines of yesteryear. We'll update this when we find out more about scurvy in miners, sometime when we're not busy.


Kudos to Dr. Clemetson for his article, "Shaken Baby Syndrome or Scurvy?", in which he draws attention to the medical neglect of Barlow's disease, and provides helpful information on diagnosing vitamin C deficiency. Considering the prevalence data he cites, I find it lamentable that the sage counsel of Linus Pauling and Irwin Stone1 has almost completely disappeared from public awareness in recent years.

I must take exception, however, to Dr. Clemetson's characterization of Popeye as a "cartoon character for people to laugh at", whose misery has become "an advertising cartoon". On the contrary: Popeye is a sort of Everyman character whom we laugh with, not at.  Since all of us are a little scorbutic, Popeye is every one of us. No wonder we love him.

Now that the truth about Popeye has been revealed, including the reason why he is edentulous [illustration], we should disseminate it widely. Popeye could become the poster boy for good nutrition. In a very visual, intuitive way, Popeye makes the connection between nutrition (50 mg of vitamin C in a bowl of spinach2) and physical prowess. Children can learn about the relation between food and health from Popeye.


Caption for illustration:

Animation model, Fleischer Studios, circa 19363



Popeye's mantra is "I am what I am", which is very profound when one thinks about it. So are we all what we are: scurvy knaves who never have quite enough vitamin C. Let's get the word out.

Speaking of scurvy knaves, the miscarriage of justice to which Dr. Clemetson alludes is the natural consequence of a legal climate in which caregivers are obliged to act as agents of the police.  The vindictive tone is set by a Justice Department that, contrary to State laws, threatens doctors who provide assisted suicide and prosecutes medical marijuana growers in kangaroo courts.4 That, I'm afraid, is a social disease which no amount of vitamin C will ever cure.

Richard P. Huemer, M.D.

Boca Raton, Florida


1. Stone, I: Scurvy, the cosmic connection: an ancient supernova and the practice of medicine in the twentieth century. In R. P. Huemer (Ed.), The Roots of Molecular Medicine. W. H. Freeman, New York, 1986, pp. 48-56

2. Williams, SR: Nutrition and Diet Therapy, 2nd Ed. C. V. Mosby, St. Louis, 1973, p. 604

3. Funnyworld, No. 21, Fall 1979, p. 46

4. Jones, IM: Many things were missing from the Rosenthal trial. FIJA Activist 15(1):1, Spring 2003


READ about BARLOW'S DISEASE, or infantile scurvy (which can follow vaccination!).

Clemetson, C.A.B.:  Barlow's disease.  Medical Hypotheses 2002; 59(1): 52-56.

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