Ascorbic acid, which is commonly named vitamin C, has proven itself as one of the most essential molecules throughout the course of history. This simple organic molecule has a molecular formula of C6H8O6. Humans lost the ever-important ability to produce ascorbic acid from glucose long ago. All animals except primates, Indian fruit bats, and guinea pigs have the ability to produce ascorbic acid in their bodies. Gulonolactone oxidase was the key enzyme needed to produce vitamin C, but this genetic material was lost over time.
Scurvy, which was a deadly disease caused by a lack of ascorbic acid, was evident throughout the Age of Exploration. This disease was problematic to the explorations of Ferdinand Magellan in the fourteenth century and James Cook in the sixteenth century. Scurvy affected many sailors on voyages in this time by the development of excessive bruising, overall weakness, and death.
Captain James Lancaster was one of the first sailors with reported success in keeping scurvy out of the ships. His method of giving lemon juice to the sailors prevailed. Also, James Cook never lost a man to this unpleasant disease. Cook implemented the consumption of citrus fruits for sailors on his voyage. His requirement of this diet and great hygiene helped get rid of nearly all scurvy cases.
Vitamin C has received less recognition for its true nutritional value and greatness as the years pass. It is undervalued and often unrecognized by people in this nation. Most do not have the knowledge that it prevents scurvy and other ailments in our body. If people would be more exposed to this imperative organic molecule, I believe it would receive more appreciation. Penny Le Couteur and Jay Burreson had a great start in exposing this great information in their well-written chapter of this prime molecule. Everything was written in an easy-to-follow manner that was enjoyable to read.