The scurvy still appear in poor urban populations

The study on the decay of ascorbic
acid will aid scientists to spatially locate what temperature is optimum to
maintain ascorbic acid, or vitamin C, and prevent scurvy. Throughout the 16th
century, researchers and scientists have conducted studies in aim to find a
cure for scurvy, deficiency of vitamin C or ascorbic acid in one’s diet.  The discovery of scurvy is traced all the way
back to the first written record by Hippocrates, during 400 B.C.E, to today
(“Vitamin C,” n.d., para. 20).  This
endemic was common among sailors (from tropical zones to temperate and arctic
zones) during the age of sail (Whitehead, 1987, p. 232). Today, ascorbic acid
deficiencies and scurvy are not as prevalent in most developed countries
because of easy access to fresh fruits, vegetables, and vitamin
supplements.  However, cases of scurvy
still appear in poor urban populations worldwide (Velandia,
Centor, McConnell, & Shah, 2008, para. 6).

Through the research and study on
decay of ascorbic acid, scientists and researchers will be able to spatially
locate what climate zone scurvy is most prevalent and where there is a severe
lack of nutrition values in diet. 
Furthermore, it can then help researchers find the cure for the rapid
growth of obesity among children due to malnutrition and inadequate diet plans.
This research will provide a better understanding of the structure and chemical
properties of ascorbic acid including different types of nutrition-based
diseases as well as prevention methods.



Vitamins are essential nutrients derived from the diet in
small, sufficient quantities. They help perform many roles in the body, which include
strengthening bones, healing wounds, and improving the immune system. Vitamins
also help to convert food into energy for cells to repair cellular
damage. There are two types of known vitamins: fat-soluble and water-soluble
vitamins. Water-soluble vitamins are in liquid-like foods in the diet and can
dissolve in water, but not in fat. These vitamins absorb into the bloodstream
and break down during digestion and can easily circulate around the body.
Excessive amounts of water-soluble vitamins do not store inside the body,
instead, they are disposed through the urine (Nestle & Pollan, 2007, p.
396). In contrary, fat-soluble vitamins dissolve in fats and oils; these
vitamins can be stored in the body. They travel to the bloodstream with only
the help of proteins (“Vitamins and Minerals,” n.d., para. 1-4). However, it
has been found that “patients with
gout and/or a tendency to form kidney stones may be at increased risk when
taking more than the recommended dose,” also known as megadoses (Nestle, 2003,
p. 239). People usually take megadoses with the reasoning of  ‘just in case’ and spend billions of dollars
on unneeded ascorbic acid pills.

Acid. Ascorbic
acid, also known as vitamin C or AA, is a water-soluble vitamin that is colorless
and odorless. As a vitamin, ascorbic acid is a nutrient obtained through the
diet in the form of tablets, capsules, and chewables. AA’s white, crystalline,
compound formula is: . Thus, it is a weak organic acid
that has properties to release
protons, donate electrons, and lower pH levels of water (making it sour to the
taste); when ascorbic acid releases its protons, it becomes ionized, also known
as ascorbate (para. 8). 1 Ascorbate
occurs in two forms: L-enantiomer
and D-enantiomer.

L-enantiomer and D-enantiomer.  The L-ascorbic acid or L-enantiomer is found
in oranges, whole food vitamin C tablets, and in gummy multivitamin. They are
all chemically and molecularly identical. Ascorbic acid is specifically formed
when L-ascorbate attaches to a hydrogen ion. If the L-ascorbate joins to a
metal ion, it forms a mineral ascorbate. Meanwhile, D-ascorbic acid or
D-enantiomer does not exist in nature and is molecularly different. Thus,
D-enantiomer is impossible to be synthesized and used as any form of vitamin
supplement; it has no physiological significance (Giovannoni, 2007, p.1).


Orange Juice

Orange juice 2 is the most popular juice in the
market known to contain ascorbic acid. In juices, ascorbic acid acts as an
additive. It can naturally be derived from an orange or artificially produced
in labs. Ascorbic acid can also act as a nutrition and preservative to delay
antioxidants and preserve or slow color and texture change. Moreover, it helps
to replace vitamins/minerals and add the nutrition that was lost during juice
processing. During the processing of juice, ascorbic acid can be lost due to
heat, oxygen, metal ions, pH, and light from purchase to storage to
consumption. The practice of “boiling, cooking, and canning
fruits and vegetables can lower the vitamin C content by 33%” (et al, 2008,
para. 25).  In addition, cutting citrus
fruits and peeling off high concentrated parts can also decrease ascorbic acid.

            Processing of
Orange Juice. Raw oranges are harvested from a farm and selected fruits are
delivered to the processing plant; during this stage, the fruit has the highest
concentration of ascorbic acid. At the plant, the fruit is graded and
not-usable oranges are separated. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) then tests for juice and solids
content to determine the payment for farmers. Afterwards, the oranges are
diverted to storage bins to be transported to extraction machines where the
juice from the oranges is blended. After extraction, a finisher removes the
pulp, seeds, and peel to prepare it for pasteurization and cooling (Caixeta-Filho,
2006, p. 2-3). During this
stage, the juice can then be made into the following forms: frozen concentrated
orange juice (FCOJ), not-from-concentrate (NFC), or reconstituted ready-to-serve
(Recon RTS).

            Not from Concentrate. Juice made into not-from-concentrate, or NFC,
is frozen at 10° F with a shelf-life of two months. NFC juice is produced
when fed to evaporators, operating under vacuum and heat, and it is “concentrated
from a 12% soluble solid content of mostly sugar to a level of 65% soluble
solids by removing water” (Kampe & Knott, 2002, p. 3). It is shipped refrigerated and packaged into plastic,
glass bottles, and waxed cardboard cartons.

Concentrated. Juice made into frozen concentrated, or FCOJ, is frozen
with a shelf life of two years; this form of orange juice is most popular and
can commonly found in a supermarket. The 65% concentrate from NFC is mixed with
fresh juice and water to obtain 42% soluble concentrate. It is packaged in
plastic cans and waxed cardboard cans. However, before FCOJ can be consumed,
consumers mix it with three parts water to bring it back to juice form (p. 3).

RTS. FCOJ can also be processed into Recon RTS. Juice made from Recon
RTS, or reconstituted ready-to-serve, is refrigerated and has a shelf-life of
two months. Recon RTS is formed by mixing water, oils, and other essences or
flavors from the peel. It is packaged in waxed cardboard cartons, glass, and plastic
containers (p. 3).



            In the Middle Ages, scurvy was an
endemic in Northern Europe during winters, when fresh fruits and vegetables
were unavailable. It was commonly an outbreak among sailors during long sea
voyages. However, recent examples include the Great Potato Famine in Ireland,
American Civil War, exploration of North Pole, California Gold Rush, and even
in the formula fed to infants. The signs of scurvy include weakness, swelling
of the legs and arms, softening of the gums (gum inflammation), bleeding, and
degeneration of fragile bone and rough, dry, scaly cartilage. Scorbutic
patients are highly susceptible to infection. The history of ascorbic acid  is associated with the cause, treatment, and
prevention of scurvy.

History of
Scurvy. Scurvy
can be traced back to the sea journeys of Hippocratis and Vasco Da Gama. John
Hawking, a well known Elizabethan sailor in the 1590s, “knew of 10,000 seamen
who had died of scurvy, and he wished that some learned man would write of it”
(Wilson, 1987., p. 15). Subsequently, in 1757, 
James Lind, a scottish physician and surgeon in the Navy, conducted the
world’s first clinical trial proving lemon or lime juice prevented scurvy.
Results of the experiment, indicated that scorbutic patients, when fed different
diets, recovered from the disease at a faster rate by drinking lemon juice. As
a result, he helped bring attention of naval authorities to poor hygienic
conditions amd prevent sea disease, such as scurvy. However, Captain “Cook’s
voyages delayed the adoption of the regular ration of lemon juice, which was
to prove so effective in the prevention of scurvy in the British Navy during
the Napoleonic war” (p. 1). It was not until the 1800s that “the British navy
adopted lemons as standard issue at sea. After limes were substituted in 1856, British
sailors began to be known as ‘limeys'” 3 (Vitamin C, n.d., para 8). “In 1907
Alex Hoist and Theodor Frohlich were able by feeding guinea-pigs on bread,
oats, and unpeeled grains to produce a condition similar to what is found in
human scurvy” (Jackson & Moore, 1916, p. 1).  In contrary to dogs, who were most commonly
used as test subjects, guinea pigs, as well as other mammals, lost the ability
to internally produce ascorbic acid over the course of evolution (“Vitamin C,”
n.d., para. 1). In 1932, with the help of Hoist and Frohlich’s research,
hungarian biochemist Albert Szent-Györgyi was able to isolate an organic
reducing agent from plant juices and animal tissues and chose the name
‘hexuronic acid’. Four years later, he sent supplies of the newly discovered
acid to Haworth and his
colleagues who were able to determine the structure of hexuronic acid and
narrow down the term to ascorbic acid (Kyle & Shampo, 2002, p. 108).


Related Studies

A professor at the African
University of Science and Technology, Onwualu, conducted research and study on
the spatial distribution of ascorbic acid and scurvy. Onwualu studied the major
producing countries of different citrus fruits. The results had shown that, as
of 2016, Brazil produced the largest amount of citrus, followed by United
States, China, Spain, Mexico, Italy, Japan, Egypt, Argentina, Turkey, Israel,
and Morocco (Onwualu, 2016, p. 38-40). However, in Africa, Nigeria and Sub
Saharan Africa produced the least amount of citrus fruits. The growth of citrus
fruits in most developed countries are due to farmable areas, transportation
and packaging efficiency, and consumer preferences for a nutritious diet.
Whereas, in LDCS, ascorbic acid deficiency is common among middle class men
“with poor self-care, lack of social support, having destructive behaviors such
as alcoholism, drug abuse or smoking, and … are mentally or chronically
ill” (et al, 2008, para. 26). Even though “Nigeria produces millions of tonnes
of seasonal fresh fruits, very high post-harvest losses (30-60%) are due
largely to inadequate infrastructure and high-cost of transportation” (Onwualu,
2016, p. 40).  In addition, the “AIDS
epidemic has decimated the region’s farm-labor force, while in countries such as
Ethiopia and Uganda, decades of war, government ineptitude and corruption, and
infrastructural neglect have frozen food production at a pre-industrial level
of output” (Roberts, 2009, p. 146).

Similarly, in 1889, an experiment
was conducted by Robert W. Felkin, a medical missionary and explorer, who had
proposed the theory of the spatial distribution of scurvy on a map. His
research showed that scurvy is common whenever sailors pass through large
ocean, mostly temperate and arctic zones. As shown on the map, scurvy is
prevalent in the ocean shores of Russia, Africa, Greenland, and Alaska. Scurvy
was found concentrated at sea in damp, low-lying localities, and arid, humid
atmospheres (Felin, 1889, p. 27). Cold weather is bad for orange juice
production, thus the production of oranges decline in cold, arctic climates
(Roll, 1984, p. 868). Consequently, “climate change is already having a
devastating impact on food production in many LDCs, and in Africa …
cutting yield in half” (Roberts, 2009, p. 147). These results would benefit
this research to spatially locate where scurvy is predominantly located based
on temperature, but it does not provide information on ascorbic acid
concentrations in these particular infected areas.


Throughout the Middle Ages and into
modern time, researchers and scientists have conducted research and studies in
aim to find a cure for scurvy, deficiency of vitamin C or ascorbic acid in
one’s diet. In 1936, Haworth and his colleagues were able to determine the
structure of hexuronic acid and narrow down the term to ascorbic acid. With the
chemical formula of , ascorbic acid is a white,
crystalline solid with antioxidant properties. Two forms of ascorbic acid
include L-enantiomer and D-enantiomer. The most popular ascorbic acid
containing juice in the market is orange juice. During the processing of orange juice, natural components
such as vitamins and minerals are lost. After the juice is pasteurized, these
natural orange components may be added back as an additive for flavor. Overall,
research and study on ascorbic acid at different temperature levels will help
increase the awareness of scurvy and its effect on the environment as well as
living things.


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