Way back as far as the 15th Century, scurvy (the disease directly related to vitamin C deficiency) was cited as the main cause of disability and mortality among sailors on long sea voyages.
We've come a long way since the early days of scurvy, and the later identification of vitamin C. We now know that vitamin C is not only important for the prevention of scurvy, but for many other different aspects of health too. Here's a reminder of some of its major functions:
Enables the body to efficiently use carbohydrates, fats and proteins
Acts as a major antioxidant; helping to protect cells and tissues from free radical damage
Plays a key role in the formation of collagen, the body's major building protein, Vitamin C is therefore essential for the maintenance of healthy connective tissue, which gives support and structure for other tissue and organs.
Has antihistamine activity and so may be helpful for reducing the symptoms of hay fever.
Plays an important role in wound healing.
Helps to support a healthy immune system - A recent review of 20 double-blind, placebo-controlled trials suggests that vitamin C does appear to help shorten the duration of a cold and reduce the severity of symptoms.
Supports cardiovascular health - Vitamin C appears to protect LDL cholesterol from damage, and in some trials, cholesterol levels have fallen when people supplement with vitamin C.
Supports a healthy stress response - studies have shown that supplementation with vitamin C helps to normalise stress-hormone levels.
Improves athletic performance & recovery - Vitamin C's role as an antioxidant makes it useful for neutralising exercise-related free radicals before they can damage the body, so may help with exercise recovery. Supplementation with vitamin C may also improve exercise performance.