Okay, so you think you are doing pretty well with your diet. You prepare most of your meals at home, dont eat much junk food and arent a fast food eater only rarely. You think vitamins are pretty much nonsenseparticularly since you are eating so welland besides, you feel pretty healthy.
Well let me rain on that parade a little.
Consider this. In order for nutritional researchers to determine the required levels of nutrients, diets must be designed of known nutrient content with a specific deficiency in the nutrient being studied. Then varying doses of the nutrient can be added to the diet to determine at what level symptoms of deficiency disappear.
In the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, a vitamin C-depleted real meal menu is described. The diet consists of the following choices:
Breakfast: Apple Juice, Applesauce, Raisin Bran, Shredded Wheat, Unprocessed bran, Hominy grits, Cream of Wheat, Eggs (scrambled or hard poached), Cheddar cheese, French toast, Syrup, Yogurt (plain or strawberry), Bran muffin, Glazed doughnut, Mini bagel, Cream cheese, White toast or bread, Wheat toast, Margarine, butter, Honey, Peanut butter, Sugar substitutes, Low-fat cream cheese, Coffee (regular or decaffeinated), Tea (regular or decaffeinated), Cream, White milk (whole, 2%, or skim), Chocolate milk, Buttermilk.
Lunch: Chicken noodle soup, Cream of chicken soup, Croutons, Escalloped chicken, Pork chops, Brown gravy, Garlic herb pizza, Grilled cheese sandwich, Tuna chunks, Yogurt (plain, vanilla or blueberry), Rice royale, Black beans, Rice, Pretzels, Applesauce, Diet Jell-O, Cookies (chocolate chip or sugar), Ice cream (vanilla or chocolate), Bread (white or wheat), Saltines, Margarine, Butter, Sour cream, Peanut butter, Mustard, Mayonnaise, Sugar substitute, Relish, Coffee (regular or decaffeinated), Tea (regular, decaffeinated or iced), Cream
Dinner: Chicken and rice soup, Cottage cheese, Croutons, Fried shrimp, Roast beef, Brown gravy, Macaroni and cheese, Cheeseburger, Chicken salad, Yogurt (plain or peach), Pinto beans, Rice, Diet Jell-O, Vanilla ice cream, Angel food cake, Bread (white or wheat), Margarine, Butter, Peanut butter, Coffee (regular or decaffeinated), Cream, Tea (regular, decaffeinated or iced)
Evening Snacks: Peanut butter crackers, Graham crackers, Chocolate chip cookie, Popcorn, Ginger ale, Diet cola
If you review these choices you should note something familiar. They are the very foods that the majority of people now consume! By eating these foods a person will restrict vitamin C intake to less than 5 mg per day. The bare minimum RDA (Recommended Daily Allowance) so far established for vitamin C is 90 mg per day for men and 75 mg per day for women — and this is highly contested as being far too low. There is a huge body of research now demonstrating that humans need several hundred milligrams (some believe more than a thousand) per day to achieve optimal health.
Vitamin C is a critically important nutrient for humans since our bodies are unable to synthesize it. In the wild, fruits and vegetables would be the main source. Vitamin C bolsters the immune system and is critical to connective tissue integrity and health. In its absence, the nutritional disease scurvy occurs resulting in a sort of meltdown of the basic structure of the body. Teeth fall out, internal bleeding occurs and it can cause a miserable death. In days gone by, ancient mariners feared the disease more than capsizing. But left out to sea long enough with only bread and salted meat they were almost sure to suffer it to one degree or another.
Heart disease is a leading killer in modern society. Dental disease is epidemic. Both of these conditions can be initiated or fostered by vitamin C deficiency. There presence may in fact be the very marker that vitamin C deficiency is widespread. Coronary and cerebral vessels lose their integrity leading to heart attacks and strokes, and periodontitis (gum recession, bleeding and oral infection) leads to loss of teeth, foul breath and seeding of the bodys organs with pathogens.
Vitamin C is not a silly nutrient to be ignored or played with. Dont assume that because you seem healthy at the moment that chronic degenerative disease is not incubating within. In fact, if you are eating exclusively processed modern fare, you can count on it.
Convert the diet to more fresh and raw foods (See authors The Thinking Person’s Master Key to Health (CD). Note that there were no fresh foods in the test diet. And certainly taking daily vitamin C supplements (500-1000 mg per day) is prudent insurance given that normal dietary fare is clearly vitamin C deficient.
Am J Clin Nutr, 1997; 65(5):1434-40