In 1497 Vasco De Gama was sanctioned by the King of Spain to find a sea route to India. Vasco De Gama set sail from Sestobal and after a year at sea, finally landed on Indian shores in 1498. In the same year De Gama set sail for the return sea voyage to Portugal, enduring bad weather and winds. De Gama lost two thirds of his crew to scurvy.
In 1520 Ferdinand Magellan set sail from southern Spain for a western sea passage to the Spice Islands of Indonesia. Magellan sailed via West Africa and Brazil, following the coast until he found a route through the southernmost tip of South America (modern day Chile) and Tierra del Fuego. Of the five ships that left Spain, only one made the return journey. Most were lost to disease. Magellan was killed in a land battle, but most of the sailors on the return trip died of scurvy.
Life at sea was far from idyllic. A sailor's existence was fraught with danger, difficulty, disease, sickness, ill-health. The most virulent and persistent problem for sailors from the middle ages to the eighteenth century, was scurvy.
Scurvy killed more sailors, pirates and merchant seaman, than all naval battles up to the eighteenth century. Scurvy was an unprejudiced disease. It was not just sailors, scurvy also killed passengers long sea journeys.
Scurvy is a nasty disease, causing tissue haemorrhage, bleeding gums (gingivitis), swollen joints, tooth loss, anaemia, finally resulting in death.
In 1747, a Scottish surgeon, James Lind, serving on HMS Salisbury, carried out experiments to discover the cause or cure of scurvy. One group of sailors ate the regular naval diet. A second group ate the naval diet plus citrus fruit. Lind observed the group eating citrus fruit did not develop scurvy. He concluded there was something essential in citrus that kept scurvy at bay.
After a protracted struggle with Parliament, Lind took part in the debate on scurvy and sailors health. In 1795, British sailors were supplied with citrus fruit as part of their rations. The most common citrus supplied by the Royal Navy, were limes and lime juice. british sailors were seen sucking limes and acquired the name "limeys".
Between 1928 and 1932 an American/Hungarian team identified ascorbic acid. It was not until 1933 that Vitamin C (ascorbic acid) was synthesized by a Hungarian/British effort.
Most animals don't suffer from scurvy as they synthesize vitamin C. Humans along with other primates cannot. Humans lack the necessary enzyme and must obtain vitamin C from an exogenous (external) source.
Why does nature do that? Nature is efficient. Nature strives for efficiency. Nature found Vitamin C abundantly available in the environment. Why bother making your own when its so freely available?
Vitamin C is available in plants and meats, particularly citrus fruits ( oranges, lemons, limes, grapefruit).
An average size lime contains approx. 39mg/100ml of Vitamin C.
An average size lemon has approx. 50gm/100ml of Vitamin C.
An average size orange has approx. 53mg/100ml of Vitamin C.
Vitamin C is also available in organ meats such as liver.
Liver contains around 35mg/100gm of Vitamin C.
Unfortunately, cooking/heat destroy Vitamin C. Think raw to get the max. But who wants to eat raw liver?
More on thoughts on Vitamins soon.