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You May Need More Vitamin C

In the “shipwreck” experiment at Sheffield's Sorby Research Institute, volunteers were fed only what the navy carried in lifeboats. The test resulted in more water and less food in lifeboats.


One of the more robust experiments conducted on human subjects during this time period in England, which has had long-lasting public health consequences, was a vitamin C depletion study, which began in 1944 at Sorby and was completed in 1946 at the University of Manchester. There were 20 participants in this medical experiment, the majority of whom were conscientious objectors who happened to live in the same building where many experiments, including the shipwreck experiment, were conducted. They were overseen by a future Nobel Prize winner, and meticulous records were kept on each participant in the study.


A new analysis of the Sorby vitamin C experiment was released this week by Philippe Hujoel, a practicing dentist and associate professor of oral health sciences at the University of Washington School of Dentistry. "The vitamin C experiment is a shocking study," Hujoel said. "They had a long-term effect on people's vitamin C levels and caused life-threatening situations." "It would never take off again."


According to Hujoel, despite the fact that two trial participants developed life-threatening heart problems as a result of the vitamin C depletion, no one was permanently harmed, and in later interviews, several participants stated that they would volunteer again because of the importance of this research.


There was not enough vitamin C available because of the war and food shortages, and they wanted to be conservative with the supplies, explained Hujoel, who is also an adjunct professor of epidemiology at the university. To prevent scurvy, the Sorby investigators sought to determine the minimum vitamin C requirements for optimal health, not the maximum vitamin C intake required to maintain optimal health.


Vitamin C is a critical component of your body's ability to heal wounds because the formation of scar tissue is dependent on the collagen protein, and the production of collagen is dependent on vitamin C. Vitamin C is required for the formation of scar tissue and the production of collagen. In addition to repairing skin damage, collagen helps to maintain the structural integrity of blood vessel walls, which helps to reduce the risk of stroke and cardiovascular disease.


In the Sorby trial, participants were randomly assigned to receive zero, ten, or seventy milligrams of caffeine per day for an average of nine months. The depleted subjects were then replenished with vitamin C and saturated with it. During this process of depletion and repletion, experimental wounds were created. The investigators used the scar strength of experimental wounds as a measure of adequate vitamin C levels because poor wound healing, along with other symptoms such as bleeding gums, is a sign of scurvy, according to their findings.


In the end, the Sorby researchers determined that 10 milligrams of vitamin C per day was sufficient to prevent the onset of scurvy symptoms. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends 45 milligrams of vitamin D per day, in part because of these findings. Based on the Sorby data, Hujoel believes that the World Health Organization's recommendation for scar strength is too low in order to prevent a lack of scar strength over time.


He claims to have tracked down and reviewed the study's data with the assistance of Margaux Hujoel, a scientist at Brigham and Women's Hospital/Harvard Medical School, and to have run the data through modern statistical techniques designed to handle small sample sizes, techniques that were not available to the original researchers. In the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, which was published on August 16, 2021, the researchers published the findings of their research.


The Hujoels discovered that the data from this one-of-a-kind study — which has served as a cornerstone for the World Health Organization and other organizations in establishing healthy vitamin C levels in humans — required more than just a "eyeball method" of data assessment.


As a result, the researchers concluded, "the failure to reevaluate the data of a landmark trial with novel statistical methods as they became available may have resulted in a misleading narrative on the vitamin C requirements for the prevention and treatment of collagen-related pathologies."


"Sorby trial data reveal that an average daily vitamin C intake of 95 mg is required to prevent weak scar strength in 97.5 percent of the population, according to robust parametric analyses. Although this level of vitamin C intake is more than double the daily 45 mg recommended by the World Health Organization, it is consistent with the writing panels for the National Academy of Medicine and (other) countries," the authors conclude.


It was also discovered in the Hujoels' study that recovering from a vitamin C deficiency takes a long time and requires higher levels of vitamin C than is typically recommended. A daily dose of 90 milligrams of vitamin C administered on an average basis for six months did not restore normal scar strength in the depleted study participants.

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