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Vitamin C – nature’s miraculous nutrient - is high-dose Vitamin C safe?

Dr Peter Baratosy MB BS FACNEM

This article is for general education purposes. Speak with your doctor or health care professional for further advice. Any treatment must be under the supervision of a suitably qualified health professional.

Before we look at Vitamin C, we must first look at it from a historical perspective. Vitamin C was not known till it was isolated in 1928, but a disease known as Scurvy has been around for a very long time. We now know that scurvy is caused by a Vitamin C deficiency but in the early days this was not recognised. The history of this nutrient goes far back in history, but it really came to prominence during the “Age of Sail” (1571–1862). Scurvy was documented by Hippocrates and was also known by the Ancient Egyptians – recorded as far back as 1550 BC!

With the “Age of Sail” (1571-1862), sailors in boats were at sea for prolonged times and many of the crew developed this disease known as scurvy. The conditions on the boats were poor – poor hygiene, poor water, poor food – all preserved – very little fresh foods. Symptoms included fatigue, nausea, diarrhoea, muscle and joint aches and pains – non-specific but as the deficiency worsened, so did the symptoms. Later manifestations include swollen spongy purplish gums prone to bleeding, loose teeth, easy bruising, scaly dry skin, slow healing wounds, opening of previously healed scars, bleeding into joints and muscles which causes areas of swelling over bones of arms and legs and finally death. This condition was so prevalent that the shipowners and the Navy Admiralty knew that at least 50% of the crew would not be capable of functioning due to scurvy, so they had double the crew number that were really needed. More sailors died from scurvy than from war, storms, shipwrecks and other diseases.

James Lind (1716-1794) was a Naval