Lack of sufficient vitamin C in daily diets was once causing a terrible disease, scurvy. Scurvy is no longer a threat as it was before, because diets include fresh fruits and vegetables nowadays. It still crops up occasionally, especially among improperly fed infants, who do not eat balanced diets and who depend on tinned foods, lacking sufficient vitamins and particularly vitamin C.
It is very interesting to know how vitamin C deficiencies have been largely eliminated over the years and how scurvy is no longer a threat.
Scurvy was a constant menace to armies and to the crews of sailing ships or whenever people were cut off from fresh fruits and vitamin C. Hippocrates gave a vivid description of the effects of scurvy - bleeding gums, hemorrhage and final death - as early as the fifth century B.C. During the Crusades the disease became widespread and in 1250 it forced the retreat and surrender of St. Louis with all his knights.
Vitamin C like in Christopher Columbus
Vitamin C benefits and a cure of scurvy is said to have come during one of Christopher Columbus's voyages to the New World. A few Portuguese sailors, desperately ill with the disease, asked to be left on an island rather than die on board and be thrown to the fish. While waiting for death on the island, they ate some of its fruits containing vitamin C and began to recover. When Columbus's caravels passed by some months later on their way back to Europe, they saw men waving from the land. The sailors were alive and healthy and the island of this "miraculous" recovery was named Curacao, from the Portuguese word for "cure".
In the 18th century a British naval surgeon, James Lind, having heard of various remedies for scurvy, decided to try an experiment. There were numerous victims of the disease aboard his ship, and he divided a dozen of them into pairs and gave each pair a different kind of diet supplement, ranging from simple sea-water to concoctions of herbs. Those who received oranges and lemons (containing large amounts of vitamin C) got well almost immediately. Eventually the crew of his Majesty's ships were given lime juice every day - earning them the nickname "limeys" - and scurvy never troubled the British navy again!