Vitamin C: Past-to‑Present
Vitamin C has a long and colorful history. Before it was known by its current name, its importance was realized by people of many cultures. In the 1750’s, Dr. James Lind demonstrated the importance of citrus fruit in preventing scurvy among sailors and led to the nickname “limeys” for British mariners. Perhaps less well‑known is that the name “ascorbic acid” comes from similar roots, “antiscorbutic,” being the technical term for antiscurvy.
The fact that we have to take vitamin C at all seems to be a sort of biological accident, probably a genetic mutation, which happened hundreds of thousands of years ago. Virtually all animals can produce ascorbate from glucose in their liver through a step‑wise biochemical chain of reactions, each mediated by a specific enzyme. In humans, the last enzyme in the series is missing, and it is the loss of this unit that accounts for the vast majority of people in the world being short of acceptable amounts of vitamin C for optimal health and longevity. Some scientists estimate that without the genetic defect, the human adult would manufacture 10,000 to 20,000 milligrams of ascorbate daily and three to five times that amount during stress.
While vitamin C is plentiful throughout the plant kingdom, in light of the fact that most people are deficient in it is evidence that few people consume a well‑balanced diet. Therefore supplementation is needed.
Vitamin C – A Necessary Nutrient
Almost anyone can recite at least two or three good reasons to take vitamin C, and new discoveries are regularly announced. Its virtues have been extolled for decades, and supplements from a few milligrams to megadoses have been advocated for everything from the common cold to debilitating conditions. The clinical reports supporting the diverse claims of this healthful substance are growing at an astounding rate. Below are just a few of the more recent studies conducted on vitamin C.
Because the eye contains a very high concentration of vitamin C, studies were conducted to explore the possible link between eye problems and vitamin C deficiency. In a study involving 108 patients with eye conditions, Dr. A. Ringvold and his colleagues found that the majority of the patients lacked adequate levels of vitamin C.
A study conducted at the University of Chile in Santiago demonstrated that by adding approximately 100 milligrams of vitamin C to the diet of 364 infants, their absorption of iron doubled.
The “British Journal of Clinical Practice” ran an editorial written by Dr. Haslock, who observed elderly patients with joint problems also often suffered from vitamin C deficiency. Vitamin C deficiency frequently leads to excess blood in the joints, which in turn leads to many forms of joint discomfort.
In a number of separate studies that included adults of all ages, smokers and nonsmokers, and males and females, researchers found that daily supplementation of vitamin C effectively lowered serum cholesterol by an average of 15% over an average of 2 to 12 months.
Other studies on vitamin C have concluded that daily supplementation significantly boosts the immune system and improves oral health.