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History of Vitamin C

The history of Vitamin C is tied in with the history of the dreaded disease affecting sailors known as scurvy. Sailors in centuries previous to the 18th century succumbed to this painful disease. It was in 1747 that a surgeon of the British Royal Navy, James Lind, performed what is thought to be the first ever controlled experiment in which there was a group that did not submit to the test and were used as what is now called a control group.

In May of 1747, Lind set out to sea with the idea of determining the cause of scurvy for which he already had a good idea. He had one group of sailors take extra doses of lemon juice along with their regular rations of food. He also had a control group in which they ate only their regular rations. The test was overwhelmingly conclusive that the lemons prevented scurvy. It took until 1753 for him to publish his study and till 1795 before the British Royal Naval made lemon or lime juice a part of the Naval rations.

Vitamin C was first isolated from food in 1928. Beginning in the 1940's, Vitamin C was used to treat viral infections with large doses, and was particularly used to treat polio. It was in the 1970's when Linus Pauling put forth the idea of using Vitamin C to prevent the common cold and the flu. His notion brought forth a radical change in the way vitamins were viewed by the medical community. Up until that point, the medical community advocated a well-balanced diet and saw no need for the use of vitamin supplementation.

Pauling also was a pioneer in the use of large doses of Vitamin C to treat Cancer. His ideas were furthered by other chemists, biologists and doctors in the 1980's and beyond. During the late 1980's and into the 1990's, other uses of Vitamin C were found. At present, Vitamin C is used to treat numerous diseases and ailments and is a major component in overall good personal health.


Overview of Vitamin C

Vitamin C, also known as ascorbic acid, is quite possibly the most well-known vitamin in the world. It is thought by many to cure or prevent innumerable diseases and ailments. Vitamin C is an integral part of your diet and necessary for the proper function of many organs and processes in the human body.

The human body does not produce Vitamin C, though most mammals do, so Vitamin C must be a part of your diet. Vitamin C is found in most fruits and vegetables and is the most common way in which Vitamin C is ingested. Fruit juices, such as orange juice, grape juice and apple juice also contain ample amounts of Vitamin C.

Eating the proper amount of fruits and vegetables should give you the required amount of Vitamin C if you are an average healthy adult. There are Vitamin C supplements that can be taken for various reasons to increase the body's supply of Vitamin C and to help stimulate your immune system.

As you have probably heard from older family members and maybe from even your family doctor, Vitamin C can help with the prevention of the cold and flu, by helping your body build a stronger immune system to fight off these illnesses. There is some truth to this, but there is also a lot of myth involved.

Because Vitamin C is an essential nutrient for the human body, a deficiency of Vitamin C can have serious consequences to your personal health. The most noted example of this are the sailors in the centuries previous to 1800 and the disease scurvy. It was determined in the late 1700's that scurvy was caused by a deficiency in Vitamin C.


Benefits of Vitamin C

Vitamin C is an absolutely essential nutrient for the proper functioning of the human body. A Vitamin C deficiency can lead to many health problems. In the early stages, these problems can be minor, but if the deficiency continues over a long enough period of time serious illness and death can occur.

Here are some of the signs of Vitamin C deficiency.

  • Bleeding gums
  • Bruising easily
  • Swollen gums
  • Wounds that do not heal

Because of the important role of Vitamin C in the body, there are many benefits to getting the right amount of this essential nutrient in your daily diet. Some of the benefits of Vitamin C include the following:

  • Helps build a strong immune system
  • Helps to keep the heart healthy
  • Helps to rid the body of toxins and free radicals
  • More efficient absorption of iron
  • Produces collagen (collagen holds cells of the body together)
  • Promotes healthy gums
  • Promotes skin health
  • Promotes strong bones and teeth


Health Claims of Vitamin C

There are many health claims that Vitamin C can lay claim to. Most of these claims come from the general fact that Vitamin C is a major factor in maintaining a healthy and strong immune system. By getting enough Vitamin C, you can help your body fight off bacteria, toxins, and diseases by normal means. That is, by being strong throughout your body-too strong for the bacteria to take hold and wreak havoc. This is why the symptoms of the common cold and the flu can be reduced by taking in healthy doses of Vitamin C.

When it comes to Vitamin C and the common cold and flu, there is no direct evidence that Vitamin C can prevent either of them. What Vitamin C does is aid your immune system in growing stronger. It is your immune system that is in charge of fighting off the flu and colds.

Vitamin C is currently used to treat the following health concerns:

  • Arthritis
  • Asthma
  • Cataract
  • Common Cold
  • Cancer
  • Flu
  • Hay Fever
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • HIV
  • Muscular degeneration due to age
  • Preeclampsia
  • Scurvy
  • Stroke

Not all of these health claims have been backed by extensive studies and research. Neither are they what would be called "old wives tales", as respected doctors have incorporated Vitamin C as a part of the means to treat the above ailments. Again, it should be mentioned that Vitamin C's greatest contribution is that of allowing the body's own defenses to fight off infections and diseases through the building of a strong immune system.

Vitamin C's use in the treatment of cancer is a result of its antioxidant power in removing toxins and free radicals from the body. In the treatment of HIV, Vitamin C is used as a means of strengthening the immune system of the body, which HIV slowly destroys. The biggest concern for most people is getting the correct amount of Vitamin C on a daily basis to help them remain energized and healthy.


Recommended Daily Allowance of Vitamin C

The recommended daily allowance of Vitamin C depends upon your situation. The average healthy adult needs about 75 mg per day of Vitamin C. Smokers should increase Vitamin C intake to 100 to 125 mg per day. This is mainly due to the harmful effects that smoking has on the heart.

If you feel you are beginning to get the flu or a cold, you should up your Vitamin C intake to give your immune system a quick boost. Any dosage over 250 mg per day is unnecessary as your body simply will not absorb that much Vitamin C and it will pass through your system unused. Doses over 250 could also produce side effects, though not of a serious nature.

There are certain drugs that can reduce your Vitamin C levels. If you are taking birth control pills, a Vitamin C supplement should be considered. Also, frequent use of aspirin can lower your Vitamin C levels. One study showed that individuals who took 2 aspirin every six hours reported 50 percent lower levels of Vitamin C after only one week.

Consuming too much Vitamin C does not necessarily have any direct side effects. The extra Vitamin C will simply pass through your body unused in your urine. However, it is an acid, and excessive consumption for a prolonged period can lead to kidney stones. A more short-term side effect of consuming too much Vitamin C is diarrhea.


Summary of Vitamin C

You have probably already heard of the magical things that Vitamin C can do to keep you healthy and free from sickness. While Vitamin C is a necessary part of good health, some of its exploits have been exaggerated. While it has not be proven that is can cure diseases such as cancer or illnesses like the cold or flu, it can make you more resistant to diseases and help make your body stronger during an illness.

Like polysaccharides, Vitamin C is contained in many of the fruits and vegetables that are a part of a normal healthy diet. Most people do not necessarily need to take a Vitamin C supplement as long as they are feeling well and are eating a balanced diet that includes fruits and vegetables. It is important to concern yourself with your daily intake of Vitamin C, as it is a key component of keeping you healthy and energized. The benefits of proper Vitamin C intake cannot be stressed enough if you are looking for ways to improve your diet and personal health.

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