Skip to content

  It turns out that scurvy and vitamin C deficiency is still around these days. Scurvy is a disease resulting from a lack of vitamin C. Most animals can synthesize vitamin C, but not humans. We must eat foods containing vitamin C to get the vitamin. Vitamin C deficiency results in defective formation of collagen and connective tissues (in our bones, skin, tendons, muscles), and symptoms may include weakness, feeling tired, curly hair, sore arms and legs, bruising, bleeding gums, and impaired wound healing.

A recent small Australian study looked at diabetic persons with chronic foot wounds (foot ulcers that didn't heal after several months). Their vitamin C levels were tested and if found to be low, then they were given vitamin C supplements of 500 or 1000 mg daily, and the result was that within 2 to 3 weeks the wounds were healed. The one person with a zinc deficiency was given 50 mg daily of zinc supplement and that wound also promptly healed.

Treatment of scurvy is by taking vitamin C supplements (the Mayo Clinic recommends taking 400 to 1000 milligrams of vitamin C  daily for one week). Vitamin C deficiency can be easily prevented by a diet that includes fruits and vegetables. The recommended daily intake for adult women is 75 milligrams and for adult men it is 90 milligrams, which can be easily met by eating fruits and vegetables, especially if they are fresh (uncooked). Good sources of vitamin C include: oranges, lemons, kiwi fruit, black currants, papaya, guava, pineapple, mango, strawberries, and vegetables such as bell peppers (red, yellow, green), tomatoes, potatoes, kale, brussels sprouts, and broccoli. It is possible to be vitamin C deficient even if the person is of normal weight or overweight - it all comes down to the diet and whether fruits and vegetables are eaten. Bottom line: Eat some daily! From Medical Xpress:

Poor diet sees scurvy reappear in Australia

Scurvy, a disease historically associated with old-world sailors on long voyages, is making a surprise comeback in Australia, with health officials Tuesday revealing a rare spate of cases. Caused by vitamin C deficiency, the condition used to be a common—and often fatal—curse among seafarers who went months without fresh fruit and vegetables.

Once barely heard of in developed countries, reports suggest the problem is also on the rise in Britain, while a medical journal this year detailed the case of a baby developing scurvy in Spain. Jenny Gunton, who heads the Centre for Diabetes, Obesity and Endocrinology research at the Westmead Institute in Sydney, said scurvy had reappeared in Australia because of poor dietary habits. She discovered the disease after wounds on several of her patients failed to heal. "When I asked about their diet, one person was eating little or no fresh fruit and vegetables, but the rest ate fair amounts of vegetables; they were simply over-cooking them, which destroys the vitamin C,"....The scurvy diagnosis for 12 patients was made based on blood tests and symptoms, with all cured by a simple course of vitamin C.

A lack of vitamin C can lead to defective formation of collagen and connective tissues, and cause bruising, bleeding gums, blood spots in the skin, joint pain and impaired wound healing. Common foods that keep scurvy at bay include oranges, strawberries, broccoli, kiwi fruit, bell peppers and grapefruit, but overcooking can destroy key nutrients.

Gunton, who published a research paper on the diseases' resurgence in the international journal Diabetic Medicine, said patients could be overweight or obese and still have the condition. Her paper reported there was no predominant social pattern to the incidence of the disease and that patients with poor diets appeared to be from a range of socio-economic backgrounds...."Human bodies cannot synthesise vitamin C, so we must eat foods containing it." Health authorities tend not to test for scurvy these days and Gunton's study advised clinicians to be alert to the potential problem especially in diabetes patients. "Particularly if their patients present with unhealed ulcers, easy bruising or gum bleeding without obvious cause," she said.

 A study found that a combination of cranberry supplement (120 mg cranberries, with a minimum proanthocyanidin content of 32mg), the probiotic Lactobacillus rhamnosus, and vitamin C (750 mg) three times a day was enough to prevent the recurrence of urinary tract infections (UTIs) for the majority of women in this small (36 patient) study. At 6 months there was a 61% success rate. No side effects were reported.

These are wonderful results, but why aren't more studies also being done on the effective product D-Mannose? The one study (see post) that I found looking at D-Mannose found an 85% success rate at 6 months. It is especially effective against E.coli, which is the cause of the majority of UTIs. But the great news is that finally women have some effective and safe treatments to try, and the wonderful possibility of getting off the vicious cycle of repeated courses of antibiotics. The article abstract from Pubmed.gov (National Library of Medicine):

Effectiveness of a Combination of Cranberries, Lactobacillus rhamnosus, and Vitamin C for the Management of Recurrent Urinary Tract Infections in Women: Results of a Pilot Study.

Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are common in women and many patients with recurrent UTIs do not eradicate the condition albeit being treated with multiple courses of antibiotics. The use of nutritional supplements might reduce the risk of recurrent UTIs. However, the role of supplements taken as single agents appears to be limited. We hypothesized that a combination of cranberries, Lactobacillus rhamnosus, and vitamin C might produce a clinical benefit due to their additive or synergistic effects. We prospectively enrolled 42 consecutive women with recurrent UTIs treated with 120mg cranberries (minimum proanthocyanidin content: 32mg), 1 billion heat-killed L. rhamnosus SGL06, and 750mg vitamin C thrice daily for 20 consecutive days. Patients were advised to stop taking these supplements for 10 d and then to repeat the whole cycle three times. Patients were contacted three mo and six mo following the end of the administration of these supplements and evaluated with a semistructured interview and urinalysis. Responders were defined as the absence of symptoms and negative urinalysis or urine culture. Follow-up data were available for 36 patients. Overall, 26 (72.2%) and 22 patients (61.1%) were responders at the 3-mo and 6-month follow-up. No major side effects were recorded. The administration of cranberries, L. rhamnosus, and vitamin C might represent a safe and effective option in women with recurrent UTIs.

PATIENT SUMMARY: We evaluated the effectiveness of cranberries, Lactobacillus rhamnosus, and vitamin C thrice daily for 20 consecutive d monthly for 3 mo for the management of recurrent urinary tract infections in women. Our results show that this approach might represent a safe and effective option.

  A cataract is a clouding of the lens in the eye leading to a decrease in vision. It can affect one or both eyes, it is more common with age, and can even lead to blindness. About 20 million people globally are blind due to cataracts. Vitamin supplements have failed to find an effect in numerous studies.

But in this study, eating foods rich in vitamin C and to a smaller degree manganese had the beneficial effect of slowing cataract progression over the course of 9 1/2 years. Manganese is a micronutrient that is necessary in small amounts, but it is rare to be deficient in manganese. However manganese has numerous negative effects if too much is ingested or if there is too much exposure. Bottom line: increased intake of fruit and vegetables (for vitamin C) could help prevent the development or progression of cataracts.  From Medical Xpress:

Increased vitamin C in the diet could help protect against cataracts

Higher dietary intake of vitamin C has been found to have a potentially preventative effect on cataract progression in the first twin study of cataracts to examine to what degree genetic and environmental factors influence their progression with age. Cataract is a common condition in which the lens of the eye becomes cloudy as a result of oxidation over time. Whilst this is a natural part of ageing for many, for others it is more severe and causes blurred vision, glare and dazzle that cannot be corrected by glasses or contact lenses.

The study, led by King's College London and published in the journal Ophthalmology, looked at the progression of cataracts in the eyes of 324 pairs of female twins .... They found that those participants who had a higher intake of vitamin C were associated with a 33 per cent risk reduction of cataract progression and had 'clearer' lenses after the 10 years than those who had consumed less vitamin C as part of their diet.

The study, funded by the Wellcome Trust and Guide Dogs for the Blind, also found that environmental factors (including diet) influenced cataract more than genetic factors, which only explained a third of the change in lens opacity. The fluid in the eye that bathes the lens is high in vitamin C, which helps to stop the lens from oxidising and protects it from becoming cloudy. It is thought that increased intake of vitamin C has a protective effect on cataract progression by increasing the vitamin C available in the eye fluid.

Kate Yonova-Doing, the study's first author said: 'The human body cannot manufacture vitamin C, so we depend on vitamins in the food we eat. We did not find a significantly reduced risk in people who took vitamin tablets, so it seems that a healthy diet is better than supplements.'

 Once again, research shows that eating lots of fruits and vegetables is beneficial to health - this time because high vitamin C concentrations in the blood is linked to lower risks of developing cardiovascular disease and early death. And it's food that they looked at, not supplements. From Science Daily:

Vitamin C related to reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, early death

New research from the University of Copenhagen and Herlev and Gentofte Hospital showshealth benefitsthat high vitamin C concentrations in the blood from the intake of fruit and vegetables are associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and early death.

As part of the study, the researchers had access to data about 100,000 Danes and their intake of fruit and vegetables as well as their DNA. "We can see that those with the highest intake of fruit and vegetables have a 15% lower risk of developing cardiovascular disease and a 20% lower risk of early death compared with those who very rarely eat fruit and vegetables. At the same time, we can see that the reduced risk is related to high vitamin C concentrations in the blood from the fruit and vegetables," says Camilla Kobylecki, a medical doctor and PhD student at the Department of Clinical Biochemistry, Herlev and Gentofte Hospital.

Among other things, vitamin C helps build connective tissue which supports and connects different types of tissues and organs in the body. Vitamin C is also a potent antioxidant which protects cells and biological molecules from the damage which causes many diseases, including cardiovascular disease. The human body is not able to produce vitamin C, which means that we must get the vitamin from our diet.

Another popular view bites the dust.From the NY Times:

Why Antioxidants Don’t Belong in Your Workout

Antioxidant vitamins are enormously popular with people who exercise. The supplements are thought to alleviate muscle damage and amplify the effects of exercise. But recent studies have raised questions about whether antioxidants might be counterproductive for runners and other endurance athletes. And now a cautionary new experiment adds to those doubts by finding that antioxidants may also reduce the benefits of weight training.

 Both aerobic exercise and strength training lead to the production of free radicals, molecules that in concentrated amounts can cause tissue damage. Antioxidants sop up and neutralize free radicals. So, the thinking goes, taking antioxidant should lessen some of the damage and soreness after exercise and allow people to train harder.But recent experiments with endurance athletes have found that consuming large doses of vitamins C and E actually results in a slightly smaller training response. 

So for the new study, which was published online this month in The Journal of Physiology, scientists at the Norwegian School of Sports Sciences in Oslo and other institutions, some of whom previously had studied aerobic exercise and antioxidants, set out to repeat those experiments in a weight room.

They began by recruiting 32 men and women who had at least some experience with weight training. They measured the volunteers’ muscular size and strength.Then they randomly divided them into two groups. Half were asked to start taking two antioxidant vitamin pills each day, one before and one after exercising. The total daily dosage amounted to 1,000 milligrams of Vitamin C and 235 milligrams of Vitamin E, which “is high but not higher than athletes commonly use,” ...The other group did not take any supplements.

All of the volunteers then began the same resistance-training regimen, consisting of four fairly rigorous training sessions each week. As the exercises grew easy, weights were increased, with the aim of pumping up the size and strength of the volunteers’ muscles.The program lasted 10 weeks. 

In general, people’s muscles had increased in size to the same extent, proportionally. The group that had taken the vitamins now had larger muscles. So did the group that had not. But there were subtle but significant differences in their strength gains. Over all, the volunteers who had taken the antioxidants had not added as much strength as the control group. Their muscles were punier, although they had grown in size.

The differences continued beneath the skin, where, as the muscle biopsies showed, the volunteers taking the vitamins had reduced levels of substances known to initiate protein synthesis. Protein synthesis is necessary to repair and strengthen muscles after weight training. So the volunteers taking the vitamins were getting less overall response from their muscles, even though they were following the same exercise program.

Exactly how antioxidant pills change muscles’ reactions to weight training is still unknown. But Dr. Goran and his colleagues speculate that, by reducing the number of free radicals after exercise, the vitamins short-circuit vital physiological processes. In this scenario, free radicals are not harmful molecules but essential messengers that inform cells to start pumping out proteins and other substances needed to improve strength and fitness. Without enough free radicals, you get less overall response to exercise.

The upshot is that whether you lift weights or jog, Dr. Goran would advise “against the use of high-dosages of concentrated antioxidant supplements.”

Two studies about food and health benefits.  From Science Daily:

Can citrus ward off your risk of stroke?

Eating foods that contain vitamin C may reduce your risk of the most common type of hemorrhagic stroke, according to a study released today that will be presented at the American Academy of Neurology's 66th Annual Meeting in Philadelphia, April 26 to May 3, 2014.

Vitamin C is found in fruits and vegetables such as oranges, papaya, peppers, broccoli and strawberries. Hemorrhagic stroke is less common than ischemic stroke, but is more often deadly.

The study involved 65 people who had experienced an intracerebral hemorrhagic stroke, or a blood vessel rupture inside the brain. They were compared to 65 healthy people. Participants were tested for the levels of vitamin C in their blood. Forty-one percent of cases had normal levels of vitamin C, 45 percent showed depleted levels of vitamin C and 14 percent were considered deficient of the vitamin.

On average, the people who had a stroke had depleted levels of vitamin C, while those who had not had a stroke had normal levels of the vitamin.

"Our results show that vitamin C deficiency should be considered a risk factor for this severe type of stroke, as were high blood pressure, drinking alcohol and being overweight in our study," said study author Stéphane Vannier, MD, with Pontchaillou University Hospital in Rennes, France. "More research is needed to explore specifically how vitamin C may help to reduce stroke risk. For example, the vitamin may regulate blood pressure."

From Science Daily:

Eat spinach or eggs for faster reflexes: Tyrosine helps you stop faster

A child suddenly runs out into the road. Brake!! A driver who has recently eaten spinach or eggs will stop faster, thanks to the amino acid tyrosine found in these and other food products. Leiden cognitive psychologist Lorenza Colzato publishes her findings in the journal Neuropsychologia.

Colzato and her colleagues created a situation in which test candidates had to interrupt a repetitive activity at a given instant. The participants had two sessions in the test lab. On one occasion they were given orange to drink that contained tyrosine, and on the other occasion the orange juice contained a placebo. The tests showed that the candidates performed better on the stopping task if they had drunk the juice with tyrosine.

The positive effect of tyrosine on our reaction speed can have benefits for road safety. But there are many more examples. Colzato: 'Tyrosine food supplements and tyrosine-rich food are a healthy and inexpensive way of improving our intellectual capabilities.

Tyrosine is found in such foods as spinach, eggs, cottage cheese and soya.