More than two hundred years ago, any man who joined the crew of a seagoing ship knew he had only half a chance of returning alive, not because he might be slain by pirates or die in a storm, but because he might contract scurvy. Scurvy could wipe out as many as two thirds of a ship’s crew on a long voyage. What is this serious condition? Scurvy is a disease caused by a diet that is depleted of vitamin C. Hundreds of years ago, the hazard of long ocean voyages was that the ship’s cook used up the fresh fruits and vegetables early on and relied on cereals and live animals for the duration of the voyage.
The first experiment to be conducted on human beings was devised nearly 250 years ago to find a cure for scurvy. A physician divided some British sailors with scurvy into groups. The groups who received the citrus fruits were cured within a short time. Sadly, it took 50 years for the British navy to make use of the information and require all its vessels to provide lime juice to every sailor daily. British sailors were mocked with the term limey because of this requirement. The name later given to the vitamin that the fruit provided, ascorbic acid, literally means “no-scurvy acid.” Today it is more commonly known as vitamin C.
The adult recommended intake of vitamin C is 90 milligrams for men and 75 milligrams for women. These amounts are far higher than the 10 or so milligrams per day needed to prevent the symptoms of scurvy. Tobacco use, among its many harmful effects, introduces oxidants that deplete the body’s vitamin C. Even “passive smokers,” who live and work with smokers, and those who regularly chew tobacco need more vitamin C than others. Intake recommendations for smokers are set high, at 125mgs for guys and 110mgs for women, in order to maintain blood levels comparable to those of non-smokers. Sufficient intake of vitamin C can normalize blood levels, but it cannot protect against the often serious damage caused by exposure to tobacco smoke.
Vitamin C, an antioxidant, helps to maintain collagen, the protein of connective tissue that protects against infection, and helps iron absorption. It makes the headlines when it comes to cancer prevention. Its antioxidant properties protect cells and their DNA from damage and mutation. It supports the body’s immune system, the first line of defense against cancer, and prevents certain cancer-causing compounds from forming in the body. Vitamin C reduces the risk of getting almost all types of cancer. It appears that this nutrient doesn’t directly attack cancer that has already occurred, but it helps keep the immune system nourished, enabling it to battle it to battle the cancer.
As an antioxidant, vitamin C helps to prevent cataracts – the clouding of the lens of the eye that can lead to blindness in older adults. The lens needs a lot of vitamin C to counteract all the free radicals that form as a result of sunlight on the eye. Vitamin C is concentrated in the lens. When there’s plenty of this vitamin floating through your system, it’s easy for the body to pull it out of your blood and put it into the lens, protecting it from damage. It’s possible that 1,000 mg per day of vitamin C might stop cataracts in their tracks and possibly improve vision.
The information provided is for general interest only and should not be misconstrued as a diagnosis, prognosis or treatment recommendation. This information does not in any way constitute the practice of medicine, or any other health care profession. Readers are directed to consult their health care provider regarding their specific health situation. Marque Medical is not liable for any action taken by a reader based upon this information.