Fact Check

Shrimp, Vitamin C and Arsenic

Will Vitamin C users who eat shrimp accumulate deadly levels of arsenic in their systems?

Published Jul 24, 2001

Claim:   Vitamin C users who eat shrimp risk death from arsenic poisoning.



[Collected via e-mail, 2001]


Spread this message out to as many friends and families as possible, because this is a matter of life and death!!

I just read a medical report from my friend saying that: DO NOT eat shrimp (Prawn) if you have just taken VITAMIN C pills!! This will cause you to DIE in ARSENIC (As) toxication within HOURS!!

THIS IS NOT A JOKE!! There's been a case happened in Taiwan.

Take care!

[Collected via e-mail, November 2011]

This is a story that happened to the relative of a friend of mine. If you love your family and your friends, just tell them about this story.

There was a woman who suddenly died with blood coming from her eyes, ear, mouth, nose, skin and tongue. After the authorities investigated, they claimed she died of food poisoning.

Before she died, she ate a lot of shrimp, but so did the rest of her family and they didn't die. It turns out that the problem was that she
drank a liquid vitamin C supplement immediately after she ate the shrimp.

Basically, Shrimp contains an Arsenic Pentoxide (As2O5) and when she ate shrimp, she drank Vitamin C at the same time. This caused a chemical reaction in her stomach. The Arsenic Pentoxide (As2O5) in the shrimp become Arsenic Trioxide (As2O3), which was very poisonous. Her heart, liver, kidneys, and blood vessels failed, and she died from massive blood loss.

So, be careful if you eat shrimp. Wait a few hours before you take Vitamin C. Don't allow vitamin C and shrimp to occupy your stomach at the same time.

[Collected via e-mail, February 2014]

I can't believe it is true. The message goes with a teenager died suddenly with blood swell out of her mouth, nose, ears, and eyes. The autopsy found that the girl had consumed a lot of shrimps and took vitamin C at the same time before her death. The shrimp and vitamin C in her digestion system combined the arsenic chemical AsO5 from the shrimp and the acid from
vitamin C to produce the fatal cyanide As2O3. So, beware, not to eat shrimp and vitamin C at the same time.


Origins:   Nearly all animals carry some form of arsenic in their systems, and seafood in particular is one of the primary food sources through which human beings ingest arsenic. However, the organic forms of arsenic found in natural food sources such as seafood are typically much less harmful than their inorganic counterparts, and one would generally have to ingest very large quantities of them over very long periods of time to suffer any significant ill effects. This e-mailed scare began circulating on the Internet in May 2001 presumably suggests
that prawns metabolize a particular arsenic compound ordinarily non-toxic to humans,


but when the prawns are ingested in combination with Vitamin C, something in the vitamin prompts the formation of a different arsenic compound which is highly toxic to humans.

A study conducted back in 1985 did report that ingesting a combination of arsenic-bearing shellfish with high doses of Vitamin C could produce a toxic form of arsenic as described above through the reduction of arsenic pentoxide to arsenic trioxide:

Eating shellfish and popping huge doses of Vitamin C could prove lethal, say University of Illinois researchers who have made a surprising discovery about the nature of arsenic poisoning. The researchers in the university's animal sciences department in Champaign found that forms of arsenic usually considered harmless can become strongly poisonous through an interaction with Vitamin C. The unexpected finding by Gail Czarnecki, David Baker and John Garst concerns the way molecules of arsenic compounds are constructed. If atoms within the compounds share five electrons with neighboring atoms, they are said to be "pentavalent" and are fairly harmless. Several foods, especially shrimp and prawns, may contain high concentrations of such arsenic compounds. What the Illinois researchers found is that high doses of Vitamin C convert the pentavalent compounds into trivalent arsenic, a highly toxic poison. Cysteine, a chemical sometimes given as a treatment for heavy metal poisoning, also converts arsenic to the trivalent, highly toxic form.

The study did not find, however, that eating a single meal of shrimp in conjunction with taking an ordinary dose of Vitamin C was likely to cause one to keel over dead "within hours" from a fatal case of arsenic poisoning. The concern expressed was that, over a period of time, the repeated practice of eating arsenic-bearing shellfish while also taking megadoses of Vitamin C could result in chronic arsenic exposure leading to a increased risk of cancer. Nothing in the study found or suggested that a meal of shrimp and Vitamin C would cause one to "suddenly die with blood coming from your eyes, ear, mouth, nose, skin and tongue" — even if such a thing ever did happen, it must have occurred under very specific or extraordinary circumstances, or we'd be finding plenty of accounts of healthy-but-dead seafood lovers. We haven't turned up any news accounts of any death(s) occurring in Taiwan or elsewhere from this combination.

Barbara "arsenic and old plaice" Mikkelson

Last updated:   22 February 2014



    Bennett, Allan and Kim Collins.   "An Unusual Case of Anaphylaxis: Mold in Pancake Mix."

    American Journal of Forensic Medicine & Pathology.   September 2001   (pp. 292-295).

    Phillips, Jeanne.   "Dear Abby."

    14 April 2006   [syndicated column].


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