Introduction To Vitamin C

"Discovery is seeing what everyone else has seen, and thinking what nobody else has thought." - Albert Szent-Gyorgi 1928 (Hungarian Scientist who discovered Vitamin C)


"There are more than 10,000 published scientific papers that make it quite clear that there is not one body process and not one disease or syndrome (from the common cold to leprosy) that is not influenced directly or indirectly by Vitamin C". - Drs Emanuel Cheraskin
John Appleton

John Appleton

We are often told that we must eat our fruits and vegetables to ensure that we get enough Vitamin C, but what is enough and how many of us have considered that vitamin C could be far more important to us than just something that might help ward off colds and flu?

Did you know that the only mammals on the planet that don't produce Vitamin C in their bodies are: Humans, Primates, Guinea Pigs and Fruit Bats? Interestingly, the very fact that the Guinea Pig cannot make any Vitamin C for itself is one of the primary reasons it has served scientific researchers so well. The Guinea Pig can be made ill or toxic much more easily than a Vitamin C producing research animal.

In the body of a Vitamin C making mammal, the Vitamin C molecule is made from a few small modifications to the glucose molecule. While glucose is in abundant supply in humans and animals, there are four enzymes that are required to convert glucose into Vitamin C. Humans, have only three of these enzymes having lost the ability to make the fourth L-gulonolactone Oxidase somewhere in evolution. To answer the question as to why humans lost the ability to make their own Vitamin C one can only assume that because their diets at the time were abundant in Vitamin C due to high consumption of plant foods, it just happened.

Of the four mammals mentioned above, only the human has changed his dietary preferences and humans are the only species to eat meat and be unable to produce their own Vitamin C. Gorillas, Guinea Pigs and Fruit Bats seem to know by instinct that to stay healthy they must ingest large quantities of foods containing Vitamin C. Fruit Bats are so named because they favour fruit as a primary source of food.

In mammals which retained the ability to make Vitamin C, it is made in response to all sorts of stress, especially the stress of infection. The normal everyday non-stress production of vitamin C proportioned up to represent the amount made on a weight basis corrected to the size of the average man (seventy kilograms), is from five to ten grams (5,000-10,000 mgs) per day. Under stress, that amount can be quadrupled. A goat for instance can make up to 100,000 mgs of Vitamin C daily if under stress.

Why is it then that the RDA (recommended daily allowance) for humans is around 90mgs per day? If vitamin C is so important to animals why do humans require so little? This is a very important question.

Could this be the reason why diseases so prevalent in humans are almost non existent in animals that make large amounts of Vitamin C? Cats and dogs are unusual in that they make very small amounts of Vitamin C and not surprisingly suffer many of the diseases that afflict humans.

It is very interesting to note that mammals which make their own Vitamin C can live 8-10 times beyond their age of physical maturity. Mammals without this ability have a difficult time reaching 3-4 times.

It is even more interesting to contemplate the impact on mankind if it were possible to re-install the L-gulonolactone Oxidase enzyme in humans? In a study conducted by Sato et al in 1966, researchers administered this enzyme (harvested from Chickens or Rats) to Guinea Pigs on a Vitamin C deficient diet. The Guinea Pigs survived and Dr Thomas Levy in his fascinating and thought provoking book 'Vitamin C - Curing the Incurable' suggests that this research "should stimulate further research into the feasibility of giving such direct enzyme replacement therapy to humans".

Dr Levy says that "a human's inability to make the enzyme L-gulonolactone Oxidase must be considered an inborn error of metabolism. As with other such inborn errors of metabolism every attempt should routinely be made by a treating physician to consider this lack of enzyme activity in every medical condition. He says that this translates into a simple approach: always give Vitamin C on a daily basis and always give enough".

It is incredibly rare according to Dr Levy for an inborn error in metabolism to be shared by all humans and he recommends that "some serious research be undertaken to find out if indeed all humans are lacking in this critical liver enzyme". Considering anecdotal evidence that one hears about a certain individual living to 100 while smoking and drinking every day, Dr Levy agrees that one can be blessed with a very efficient immune system but he suggests that "the ability to synthesize L-gulonolactone Oxidase, at least to a limited degree, could also be the reason for an otherwise incredibly long and healthy life".

To give credence to this, a study which emanated from UCLA in 1992 involving 11,348 participants over a ten year period showed that men who took 300-400mgs of Vitamin C daily lived 6 years longer than those who took less than 50 mgs daily.