More than two hundred years ago, any man who joined the crew of a seagoing ship had only half a chance of returning alive. One may guess that the odds for survival were low due to fatal encounters with severe storms or pirate attacks. In contrast, the vast majority of deaths were a result of scurvy. Scurvy is a disease caused by vitamin C deficiency. Scurvy has been known to kill as many as 2/3 of a ship’s crew during a long voyage. Ships that sailed on short voyages, especially around the Mediterranean Sea, were safe from this disease. The special hazard of long ocean voyages was that the ship’s cook used up the fresh fruits and vegetables early and relied on cereals and live animals for the duration of the voyage.
The first nutrition 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. Each group received a different test substance: vinegar, sulfuric acid, seawater, oranges, or lemons. Those 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 was later given to the vitamin that the fruit provided, ascorbic acid, which literally means “no –scurvy acid.” Today it is more commonly known as vitamin C.
The adult daily recommended intake (DRI) for 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. In fact, they are close to the amount at which the body’s pool of vitamin C is full to over-flowing: about 100mgs per day.
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 125 mgs for men and 110 mgs for women, in order to maintain blood levels comparable to those of nonsmokers. 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 protects against infection, and helps in iron absorption. The theory that vitamin C prevents or cures colds or cancer is not well supported by research.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.