Vitamin C – The history of this vitamin has been plagued with death. For example, the early sailors that were sent to sea for months at a time developed a disease known as ‘Scurvy’. At the time, little did they know they were simply lacking a common Vitamin, known as Vitamin C or ascorbic acid. The reason they suffered this is that there isn’t much fresh food available whilst sailing on the open seas, fresh food is a rich source of This water-soluble vitamin. These early explorers subsisted on flour and water because of the lack of fridges and freezers meant keeping fresh foods was completely impractical.
The Scurvy Mystery!
Of course, in the 17th and 18th centuries, the symptoms experienced by sufferers were a complete mystery. They included swollen and bleeding gums, loose teeth, bulging eyes, and severe skin symptoms. The sailors also suffered exhaustion and debility, meaning some were unable to complete their daily labor-intensive ship routines. Many sailors routinely succumbed to this strange illness as no one knew what had caused it. It wasn’t until the mid-18th century when James Lind formally and correctly stated, “Scurvy is solely owing to total abstinence from fresh vegetable food, and greens; which is alone the primary cause of the disease”. He didn’t know about Vitamin C, but he hit the nail on the head.
‘Eat Your Oranges’ for Vitamin C
Now, this vitamin is probably the most popular and well-studied nutrient on the planet. As a kid, you probably were told that oranges are the best source of Vitamin C and our parents nagged us to eat our fruit and veggies. This was and still is good advice! Vegetables not only contain this crucial vitamin but numerous other valuable phytonutrients – so we must not forget that fresh food is more than just a source of Vitamin C. From what we have learned from the Scurvy days, we need some Vitamin C or we die. But how much do we need to ingest for optimal health? A recent study sheds light on this.
As with all of our nutrients, food is always the best source of nutrients. We must eat as well as we can to get as much nutrition out of our food as humanly possible. However; supplementing with a naturally-sourced, a non-synthetic vitamin supplement may optimize our vitamin intake. In the early days of supplementation, the ‘more is better’ philosophy ruled. Gram doses of Vitamin C were administered daily, but a new study has found that daily doses of 100-200mg would be adequate to saturate plasma levels of Vitamin C, which optimizes cell and tissue levels. If you are taking an excess of Vitamin C beyond these levels for a long time, side effects may occur.
Vitamin C – Take-Home Message
The take-home message is that your Mum was right; “Eat your fruit and veggies for your daily Vitamin C”. Include plenty of fresh salads in your life to further boost your levels. We know no human is perfect, so to ensure you are getting enough, ensure your multivitamin or immune supplement contains 100-200mg of Vitamin C. This will ensure you are getting enough to bathe your immune system in the supplement it loves.
 Bartholomew, Michael (2002). “James Lind and scurvy: A revaluation”. Journal for Maritime Research. 4 (1): n/a. doi:10.1080/21533369.2002.9668317. PMID 20355298.
 Vitamin C and Immune Function. Anitra C. Carr and Silvia Maggini. Nutrients 2017, 9, 1211; doi:10.3390/nu9111211.