The Invention of Vitamin C

published on July 20, 2020

Vsauce Kevin here sailing the high seas avast ye scurvy dogs actually I'm in a kiddie pool and you're not scurvy dogs because scurvy was just some weird thing that pirates got or something or is it a disease everyone can still get today and as the centuries long search for its

Cause and cure show us how life-saving knowledge can be hidden right in front of our faces yes scurvy is a disease caused by a deficiency of ascorbic acid commonly known as vitamin C it's necessary for

The absorption of iron which fortifies red blood cell production red blood cells help carry oxygen from your lungs to the rest of your body vitamin C is also necessary for connective tissues muscles tendons blood vessels bones and

The formation of collagen the glue that binds your body together zombies could probably benefit from vitamin C guinea pigs are one of the only animals whose livers don't synthesize vitamin C a short list that includes some primates

And all humans for us it's thought to be the result of an evolutionary defect that occurred 60 million years ago and it means that we have to get vitamin C from someplace else food here are some foods that contain

Vitamin C while fresh fruits and vegetables are the most common sources of vitamin C for the Inuit people living in the Arctic there's as much vitamin C pound-for-pound and beluga whale skin as

There is in orange juice scurvy is so rare today that it's often overlooked by doctors when patients do suffer from it it takes only about ten milligrams of vitamin C a day to stave off than eight ketchup packets but in a world without

Cheap prepackaged servings of sweet and tangy tomato goop without foods fortified with extra vitamin C without any idea that vitamins even existed men were trapped on boats for months at a time

Eating salted meat biscuits and beer a diet with a daily recommended allowance of vitamin C floating right around zero percent the age of sail which lasted from the late 15th to mid 19th century was defined by European powers exploring

And warring over seas supremists warships grew bigger vessels for commerce flourished and voyages lasted longer mortality rates at sea were so high that some ships would leave port with up to 50% more sailors than they

Needed to try to make up for the deaths caused by scurvy cannonballs Krakens and Captain Hook can compare to a deficiency of vitamin C so what happens when you get scurvy according to the National Health Service scurvy is characterized

By fatigue pain in the limbs swollen gums and the appearance of red blue spots on the skin which doesn't sound too bad but according to a surgeon on a 16th century English voyage symptoms can get a lot more graphic it rotted all my

Gums which gave out a blackened putrid blood my thighs and lower legs were black and gang I was forced to use my knife each day to cut into the flesh in order to release this black and foul blood I also used my

Knife on my gums which were livid and growing over my teeth had cut away this dead flesh and caused much black blood to flow i rinsed my mouth and teeth with my urine rubbing them very hard the unfortunate thing was that I could

Not eat desiring more to swallow and to chew okay let's break this down urine which contains ammonia was used as a mouthwash and teeth whitener for centuries documented by 1st century BC Roman poet Catullus

In a verse about Arrivals beautifully polished teeth the higher the polish on your teeth the more it proclaims that you have drunk your piddle and cutting out foul blood or bloodletting was a foundational tenets of medical reasoning

From Hippocrates in 4th century BC Greece through the 19th century despite the Surgeon General of the East India Company writing in 1617 and lemon juice prevents and pure scurvy it took years for anyone to understand why 316 years

Before the rise of modern medicine ailments were thought to be treated by balancing the four humors blood black bile yellow bile and phlegm the scurvy suffering surgeon thought he had too much blood so he performed a venesection

To release some then along came dr lime tree surgeon James Lind whose last name derives from the old norse for lime tree performed the first controlled clinical trial in human history while aboard the english warship hms salisbury in 1747

Lind separated scurvy afflicted sailors into six pairs he then monitored the effects of treating them with cider a sulfuric acid cocktail vinegar sea water oranges and lemons and garlic paste Lind found that the most sudden and visible

Good effects were perceived from the use of oranges and lemons but without knowledge of vitamins he was forced to explain the results to the medical world of his time he concluded that the dampness at sea blocked perspiration

Which led to an imbalance of alkalinity basically that sailors weren't sweating properly because they were wet all the time and acidic fruits restored the body's internal pH balance none of which is remotely true but he didn't know that

No one understood the chemistry of nutrition it was a different world with different rules and Lind was just trying to understand what he observed and explained it to others but it didn't work with no scientific

Understanding of how a lemon could prevent and cure scurvy other purported remedies included mixing hydrochloric acid into drinking water or drinking wort of malt a precursor to beer promoted as a scurvy elixir by Dublin

Physician david McBride with the support of the Royal Society wort of malt not only contained a zero of vitamin C it actually inhibited its absorption was like giving a thirsty person a cup of sand

Despite scurvy killing over two million sailors during the age of sail it wasn't much motivation to find a cure ship owners were more concerned about their expensive ships sailors were easier to replace it wasn't until the warship HMS

Gloucester had to be abandoned in 1742 because there weren't enough sailors to continue Manning it that England put effort into a solution ships were loaded with lemon rob a concentrate invented by Lind which unknowingly destroyed half

The vitamin C in the process storing the robbed deteriorated the vitamin C further over time but it still worked well enough that in 1799 the Royal Navy ordered a lemon and sugar cocktail to be administered daily to all sailors scurvy

Plummeted which gave the British Navy a tremendous advantage in Napoleonic Wars scurvy was cured until it wasn't the advent of steam engines meant shorter trips so the importance of lemons was seen as less

Critical lemons which had been planted throughout Sicily to supply the British Navy were eventually replaced in 1860 by more readily available West Indies limes they believed that acidity provided the cure and wild lions are more acidic than

Lemons they have half the vitamin C 50 years later further misunderstandings of scurvy led Robert Falcon Scott expedition to Antarctica to not include any citrus at all and the trip was such a disaster that absolute Terry Gerard

Called it the worst journey in the world but you didn't have to be a sailor or an explorer to suffer from scurvy when baby formula became popular in the early 1900's it contained no vitamin C and thousands of infants died by 1920 orange

Juice was mixed into the formula ultimately the knowledge that fresh fruits and vegetables cured and prevented scurvy wasn't enough we needed to understand the process that was involved humanity required a shot in the

Arm like with a bullet in 1917 in the midst of World War one a young Hungarian soldier named Albert sent gurgi wanted to get back to the University of Budapest so badly he said he was overcome with such a mad desire to

Return to science that one day I grabbed my revolver and in my despair put a shot through my upper arm he finished his MD later that year without a clue that a guinea pig would lead him to a Nobel Prize while studying

A deficiency disorder called berry berry researchers axel host and fedor frolic decided to switch out their pigeon test subjects or a mammal they faithfully chose the non vitamin C producing guinea pig which died from scurvy like symptoms

When fed a strict diet of brain for the first time an animal was observed with scurvy they honed their experiments and by 1932 Center G had isolated ascorbic acid prior to the discovery of x-rays the electron

Radioactivity and relativity scientific learning was largely limited by our senses you can see a hungry lion you can't see its electrons you can see rotten fruit you can't see if it has vitamin C the constraints of medical

Reasoning of the era prevented James Lind from saving millions of lives his knowledge was imprisoned by the zeitgeist a German word representing the dominant ideals and beliefs of a particular period of time in his 1970

Book the crazy 8 albert sent gurgi described the zeitgeist as a cage he said the freedom of human thought is very limited we all live in a very narrow cage the spirit of our times in which we have very limited freedom of

Motion if in different ages people thought differently this was not because the cage got wider but because the cage moved by discovering ascorbic acid and finally solving a mystery that plagued humans

For thousands of years Albert sent gurgi moved the cage today we live in a cage created by the math biology chemistry and physics of our time and just like James Lind couldn't conceive the chemistry of lemons and

Livers we have a hard time moving our own cage Oh Bert Sanger G included a quote in his 1957 book bioenergetics that says research is to see what everybody has seen and think what nobody has thought in order to move our cage we

Have to step outside its confines and see things from a new perspective whether it's to advance science improve our world or just better ourselves like vitamin C and scurvy a solution that can revolutionize life as we know it exists

Just outside the limits of our own kiddie pool the greatness in each of us lies in our ability to move beyond limitations to find a way to see what everybody else has seen but to think what nobody else has thought and the

Fear complacency and obstacles in our path are washed away as soon as the wall impeding discovery is broken down and as always thanks for watching hey I'm really excited to announce that

I did a collaboration with sesame studios it's a blanket fort memory game it's for really really little future vsauce fans so go over there check it out make sure you subscribe while you're there and yeah I'll see you over there

In the blanket for it okay bye

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