Dr. Pauling, in his latest book, How to Live Longer and Feel Better, again points out the vital importance of vitamin C. It functions as an antioxidant to protect us from tissue damage by oxidation.
Collagen is a structural protein, which literally holds our bodies together. Vitamin C is involved in every step of its synthesis. Collagenís final structure is amazing Ė "stronger than steel wire of the same weight." It has recently been shown that vitamin C is itself destroyed in certain reactions involved in the synthesis of collagen. This is a very different situation from its function in other reactions, when it is not destroyed and can be used again and again. Dr. Pauling points out that we require much more vitamin C than is present in our customary diet for two reasons: first, we need to synthesize large quantities of collagen for growth and also to replace what is broken down by ordinary wear and tear; second, vitamin C is destroyed in this synthesis.
Dr. Pauling quotes the very same passage from Eaton and Konner, "Paleolithic Nutrition",1 that we quoted in last fallís NOHA NEWS to the effect that the introduction of agriculture coincided with skeletal manifestations of sub-optimal nutrition. He points out that our pre-agriculture ancestors obtained much more vitamin C from their diet than we do from our diet. Theirs was about fifty percent vegetable matter and fifty percent wild game. They ate a wide variety of roots, beans, nuts, and fruits, but very small amounts of the cereal grains, which constitute such a major share of our present diet. As cereal grains contain no vitamin C at all, our present low dietary intake is easily explained. In all Dr. Paulingís books in which he discusses vitamin C, he points out that most animals can synthesize this vital substance in their own bodies. However, our ancestors lost this ability in ancient times when vitamin C was very adequately supplied in their diet, so it was an evolutionary advantage to dispense with the function of synthesizing it. We need to remember that our "bread and butter" diets are drastically low in vitamin C.
1The New England Journal of Medicine, Vol. 312, No. 5 (January 31, 1985), pp. 283-89
Article from NOHA NEWS, Vol. XII, No. 3, Summer 1987, pages 3-4.