Importance of Vitamin-C, then & now

Back in the day, a dreaded disease called scurvy was rampantly killing sailors on voyages, and there was no known remedy for it

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Vitamin C Juice Fruit
Picture: Pixabay

Importance of Vitamin-C, then & now

The Indian gooseberry, better known as amla, has always been regarded for its myriad health benefits. Amla is one of the richest known sources of Vitamin C, and we in India seem to have long known the importance of this nutrient. Amla is enjoyed as a fresh fruit in this season, but is available in abundance round the year as the key ingredient in chyawanprash, amla candy, powders and pickles. Let’s briefly recount the history of Vitamin C.

Back in the day, a dreaded disease called scurvy was rampantly killing sailors on voyages, and there was no known remedy for it. In 1747, Dr Lind, a British physician, made a pioneering discovery that oranges and lemons could cure the disease. The intriguing part of this tale is that it took more than five decades to introduce these foods in the ration of the sailors so as to prevent this killer disease. Incidentally, I see a striking similarity between what happened then and what’s happening now.

Centuries later, it is Vitamin C yet again that seems to be working miracles for those affected by COVID-19. Outstanding reports from the ICUs of The United Memorial Medical Centre in Houston, Texas, USA, & Eastern Virginia Medical School Hospital, USA, have indicated that a high intravenous dose of Vitamin C, combined with steroids and anticoagulants, has resulted in zero deaths and nearly 100 per cent recovery among critically ill COVID patients. When one is unwell, the level of Vitamin C in the body drops. At the same time, the body’s need for this vitamin goes up.

Also read: Nature’s pharmacy: The medicinal value of various plants

The effect of Vitamin C on the body’s immune function is greatly dependent on the dose administered. In the past, there has been a great deal of confusion about the role of Vitamin C on body immunity, because studies have faultily employed varied doses of Vitamin C. Dosage is key when it comes to Vitamin C and is important to achieve the full potential of the compound. Vitamin C has negligible side effects even in high doses, unlike some of the other vitamins that can be harmful in high doses. This makes it a relatively safe but potent treatment option.

The severe complications of COVID-19 are different from that of viral pneumonia. The disease can cause acute inflammation in the body and increased clotting in the blood vessels, which affects all major organs in the body, including the brain. As it stands now, there is overwhelming evidence that this humble vitamin, when administered intravenously in high doses, can prevent deaths in seriously ill COVID patients. Interestingly, Vitamin C in the intravenous form was also effective in treating SARS patients during the 2002-04 epidemic.

It is unfortunate that despite these miraculous results, Vitamin C finds little credence among mainstream treatment options for COVID-19. The success stories of the two aforementioned ICUs in the US can help draw attention to its role. Vitamin C may not sound as glamorous in the news as a vaccine in the making, but it has played a stunning role nonetheless. In addition to its curative role, Vitamin C also protects the healthy population by clearing the virus from the body by increased interferon production. You can reap the benefits of Vitamin C by including its rich sources in the daily diet. Apart from eating fruits like amla, guava and citrus fruits, you can add to your meals fresh chutneys of mint, dhania and curry leaves.

In a nutshell

As it stands now, there is overwhelming evidence that Vitamin C, when administered intravenously in high doses, can prevent deaths in seriously ill COVID patients. Interestingly, Vitamin C in the intravenous form was also effective in treating SARS patients during the 2002- 04 epidemic.

By Neelanjana Singh
Nutrition Therapist &  Wellness Consultant

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