In my world, there is a disease present in all plants, animals, fish, insects and birds, which doesn't hurt them but is deadly for humans. What can they do with their diet (consisting currently of practically every edible kind of mushrooms and negligible amount of "clean" apples, of which new trees can't be grown) to not become blind and, in time, dead due to vitamin A deficiency? Is it even possible?


closed as too broad by Mołot, Ash, L.Dutch, Vincent, sphennings Oct 29 '17 at 22:46

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    $\begingroup$ Short term the 20kg mushrooms one has to eat for daily calories seem more problematic than that. You can use synthetic vitamins and such btw $\endgroup$ – Raditz_35 Oct 29 '17 at 12:59
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    $\begingroup$ A little research seems to be wanting here, humans source their Vitamin A primarily from fruit, including apples. $\endgroup$ – Ash Oct 29 '17 at 13:01
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    $\begingroup$ The complete lack of lipids is a bigger issue. You are missing a macronutrient you may never get to a micronutrient issue. $\endgroup$ – John Oct 29 '17 at 13:14
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    $\begingroup$ Is cooking a lost art? $\endgroup$ – nzaman Oct 29 '17 at 14:08
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    $\begingroup$ Unless humans have come to this planet through space colonization, normal evolutionary pressures would have solved the problem. If humans came through colonization, they would have the capacity to do genetic modification through cultivation and cross-breeding, along with bringing their own plants. $\endgroup$ – Justin Thyme Oct 29 '17 at 14:34

Hmm. Why mushrooms and apples.

You don't need a disease. You just need a world that doesn't produce one needed vitamin.

Now, how to get that one vitamin. You used vitamin A. This is usually formed in the body by splitting a molecule of beta carotene. (what gives carrots their orange colour)

To make things interesting, your world doesn't produce carotenes either, but rather an analog that doesn't work for people. So some manual process is required to extract the carotene analog and convert it to something you can use.

The amount of tech you need is up to you.

Example: Grind the fruit of the Analog to pulp, or freeze it to rupture cell membranes, mix with strong alcohol to dissolve the analog, filter to remove the crud, react the analog with an acid or an alkali, neutralize the alkali, and consume. That's at a level of 'hollow gourd' chemistry. Make it more complex if you want a more technical answer.

The advantage of producing carotene is that you only convert as much as you need. Some amount of vitamin A is stored in the liver, but too much can be toxic. Worst case with an overdose of caretene is that it will dissolve into your subcutaneous fat and make you rather orange and looking like Donald Trump. This takes serious amount. Equivalent to eating pounds of carrots a day.

More about beta caratene: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beta-Carotene

  • $\begingroup$ Hey, why isn't YOUR reference to the Trumpster NOT considered a cheap political barb, and mine WAS? $\endgroup$ – Justin Thyme Oct 29 '17 at 14:38
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    $\begingroup$ @JustinThyme: um ... double negative... and it looks like he was making a fashion statement $\endgroup$ – nzaman Oct 29 '17 at 16:50

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