What causes scurvy?
By Biology Decoded Team
We may dislike eating our veggies, but do you know that veggies contains umpteen amount of
vitamins, especially, Vitamin C? Not only is it present in fruits and vegetables but also, in meat
that we eat. The reason why our bodies can’t synthesize Vitamin C is due to lack of an enzyme
that catalyse intermediate metabolites into Vitamin C. Most mammals have enzymes that
produce Vitamin C but humans cannot because, as time passed, mutations were accumulated on
the gene of the enzyme leading to loss of enzyme.
Most of us may think of Vitamin C as Citric acid, but actually, it is not. Vitamin C is actually,
Ascorbic acid. The difference between them is that Citric acid is generated during cellular
respiration of mammals, including humans. Ascorbic acid is not synthesized in humans.
Vitamin C acts as a couple factor for an enzyme that synthesize a component of extracellular
matrix, collagen. The incorporation of Ascorbic acid with enzyme, adds hydroxyl group on
proline residue in collagen. This reaction generates hydroxyproline, which stabilizes the structure
The deficiency of Vitamin C can increase risk of certain diseases, such as stroke. So what is
scurvy? Scurvy is a condition specific to deficiency of Ascorbic acid. The lack of Vitamin C
destabilizes the structure of collagen and affects integrity of tissue. Symptoms include bleeding
gums, tooth decay, rough skin, and loss of integrity of microvessels. Symptoms of scurvy
appears within month, if deficiency is continuous.
Did you know one of reasons that killed the pirates of the 18 th century were not bullets but
scurvy? Yes, you heard that right. Pirates could not rely on the Food Pyramid to help them get
their required fruits and veggies and as a result, they were plagued with scurvy. Pirates had
bleeding gums, their teeth fell out, bones atrophied … it was a slow death, say historians. Eating
citrus fruit would cure them.
Currently, we rarely hear of scurvy but if we observe in developing countries, it still exists.
Extensive cooking of veggies and meat destroys Vitamin C and thereby, we barely absorb
Vitamin C upon consumption.
Now you know, why it is important to eat our greens, while they are still green.
#FreeMedEducation #VitaminC #Biochemistry