Nature is teeming with paradoxes, seemingly contradictory facts and forces that finally contribute to what we call ‘the balance of nature’. One of the most far reaching is the fact that, although man has triumphed over the many living creatures that inhabit the earth, he still survives although he suffers from a severe disability in his chemical make up — he lacks that one enzyme which will turn glucose into ascorbic acid or Vitamin C.
Dr Irwin Stone in his epoch-making book The Healing Factor — Vitamin C Against Disease explains what probably happened to our evolving primeval ancestors some 20 to 60 million years ago.
‘In nearly all the mammals’, he writes, ‘ascorbic acid is manufactured in the liver from the blood sugar, glucose. The conversion proceeds step-wise, each step being controlled by a different enzyme. The mutation (change in the genes) that occurred in our ancestral species of primates (species of monkeys) destroyed his ability to manufacture that last enzyme in this series — L-gulonolactone oxidase into ascorbic acid, which was needed to carry out the various biochemical processes of life. The lack of this enzyme made this animal susceptible to the deadly disease, scurvy.
‘To this day, millions of years later, all the descendants of this mutated animal, including man, have the intermediate enzymes but lack this last one. And this is why man cannot make ascorbic acid in his liver!’
Irwin Stone calls the consequent low Vitamin C content of the body ‘hyposcorbaemia’ (‘hypo’ is a prefix meaning ‘too little’ — ‘hyper’ meaning ‘too much’).
Probably many species of animals lacking this power did not survive, but the monkey types, the little guinea pigs and some fruit eating bats living in the lush primeval forests that covered the earth obtained all the ascorbic acid they needed —■ and more — from the Vitamin C rich fruits, leaves, nuts and insects on which they lived. They did not need to manufacture it themselves.
As man evolved and came out of the forests to the plains he has sought other means of food supply — in hunting animals, in herding and domesticating them, in cultivating the earth and preserving its products — but always he obtained some ascorbic acid from his environment, however unfavorable, if he was to survive.
The vastly different diets of such peoples as the Australian aborigines, the Eskimos, the Arabs, the Indians of America and the Indians of India show how man can adapt to his environment and his food supply — but can never survive without Vitamin C.
Those who depended on animal products and their herds always obtained some Vitamin C from the milk, meat and blood of their herds, even in cold winters, as these animals could make ascorbic acid from their dried stored fodder. Man could not.
They fared better than the agricultural peoples whose diet of grains might be rich in the B Vitamins but contained no Vitamin C. In the hard winters of the northern hemisphere when fresh fruits and green plants were unavailable, many died of scurvy and more sickened with diseases caused by Vitamin C deficiency before the spring brought back their vitamin rich growth to the sun warmed soil. No wonder that the coming of spring was welcomed with feasting and song.
When adventurous men left the land and embarked on long sea voyages in small ships and lived on food in which Vitamin C was absent or destroyed, they suffered the ‘sailors’ disease’ and many died from scurvy.
Through the original work of Dr Szent Giorgyi we are, indeed, lucky in our day and age to be able to buy over the counter as much as we need of the synthetic Vitamin C — which is essentially the same ascorbic acid that we humans cannot manufacture for ourselves.
Buy generics without a prescription