Not everyone is aware of this vital protein, COLLAGEN, that exists in the body. Everything ticks along nicely until something happens to cause the supply of collagen to weaken or break down.
TISSUES AND ORGANS HELD TOGETHER
In Dr. Irwin Stone’s book, Vitamin C—the Healing Factor, he explains that in the heart for instance, ‘the pump and flexible pipes in the system must be rugged to start with and must be in a constant state of self-repair and maintenance to withstand the continual wear and tear of the alternating mechanical stresses of fluid flow. Should any structural weakness in the walls occur or leaks develop anywhere in the closed system, we are in serious trouble with heart disease, strokes and haemorrhaging. The main structural element from which this system is built and which provides the strength, elasticity and ruggedness is the protein COLLAGEN.’ He goes on to explain that collagen acts like a cement substance which holds the tissues and organs together. Others have likened it to the embedded fibres in fibreglass composites. Bone and its connecting ligaments and tendons receive their strength and flexibility from this long string-like protein molecule, collagen.
The essential substance needed for the synthesis of collagen is ascorbic acid or vitamin C. Without ascorbic acid, collagen cannot be produced. If too little ascorbic acid is present during the synthesis of collagen, it will be defective and structurally weak. Collagen also affects the ability of the skin and blood vessels to withstand the impacts that lead to bruising. Dr Stone remarked ‘without collagen the body would just disintegrate or dissolve away.’
BONES AND JOINTS AFFECTED
Arthritis and rheumatism are often referred to as ‘the collagen diseases’ because of the definite involvement of this protein in their genesis and cause. It is the deprivation of ascorbic acid with the consequent synthesis of poor quality collagen or no synthesis at all, which brings on the most distressing bone and joint effects of clinical scurvy. The weakening of bones and the risk of bone fracture in the elderly could also be reduced.
LINK BETWEEN MALIGNANT CANCER AND SCURVY?
In their book, "Vitamin C. The Real Story", Steve Hickey and Andrew Saul refer to the work of WILLIAM J. McCORMICK (1880-1968) a Toronto physician, who noted that supplementation of ascorbic acid rapidly enhanced collagen synthesis. McCormick pioneered the idea that ascorbic acid deficiency was the cause of many diverse conditions from cardiovascular disease to cancer. McCormick noted that if collagen is abundant and strong, body cells hold together well. He observed similarities with malignant cancer and scurvy. If the collagen matrix surrounding a tumour breaks down, it has the effect of disturbing the tight arrangement of cells, thus making it easier for malignant cancer cells to spread. McCormick observed that cancer sufferers typically had very low levels of vitamin C and that the symptoms of scurvy closely resemble some types of leukaemia and other forms of cancer.
As explained in a previous article, the problem exists as a result of the genetic mutation some 60 million years ago, which left humans without the essential enzyme to make ascorbic acid in their bodies, as nearly all other mammals do. It means that ‘we humans are living in a state of sub-clinical scurvy.’ So while an individual might ingest just enough ascorbic acid to prevent him from getting scurvy, he might not be getting enough to ensure an adequate supply for the proper synthesis of collagen.
POSSIBLE PREVENTION OF ATHEROSCLEROSIS
Dr Stone observed that improved prevention and treatment for atherosclerosis is possible when it is appreciated that this is an inflammatory disease. Inflammation of the artery wall stimulates plaque formation. However, a sufficient supply of ascorbic acid can prevent this and subsequent heart disease from happening.
INFLAMMATION TO BLAME
For decades the medical profession has been convinced that cholesterol and ‘bad’ fats cause heart disease, although there was never any hard evidence. Because of the presence of cholesterol, it was assumed that cholesterol was the cause. It was just not understood that the cholesterol was there because of the inflammation. Heart surgeon Dr.Dwight Lundell explains this. People with low levels of vitamin C are more likely to suffer from inflammation. While plaque formation can be active or remain dormant, Dr Stone observed that the inflammation in plaques is often caused by infection.
The body constantly requires vit.C to repair damage to tissues and with atherosclerosis the repair mechanisms fail. Dr Stone suggested that atherosclerosis and heart disease could be a result of chronic sub-clinical scurvy. As mentioned earlier, most animals synthesise vit.C and so do not suffer from atherosclerosis.
The current recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for vitamin C for adult non-smoking men and women is 60 mg/d, which is enough to avoid scurvy but not nearly enough for anyone who is stressed, elderly or ill. No allowance is made for the long term effects of vit.C deprivation. Dr Stone recommends a daily supplement of twice the RDA to stay healthy. See article on vitamin C.
Stone believed that the high incidence of cardiovascular disease is because so many people depend on food as their source of ascorbic acid which may be only at sub-marginal levels. These intakes are usually inadequate for the production and maintenance of optimal high strength collagen over long periods of time. Stone observed, ‘The body is subjected to many other ascorbic acid depleting stresses, so abundant ascorbic acid must be available. An inadequate intake of ascorbic acid is a factor in coronary thrombosis due to impaired collagen production causing capillary rupture and haemorrhage in arterial walls.’ In one hospital it was noted that 81% of coronary patients had subnormal levels of blood plasma ascorbic acid.
FASTER RECOVERY FREEING HOSPITAL BEDS
Stone proposed that a daily routine administration of a few grams of ascorbic acid to hospital admissions would hasten their recovery and shorten hospital stay, thus freeing beds more quickly. Many patients arriving in hospital are already in a pre-scorbutic state. Stone suggested; "when blood samples are taken why not test for levels of ascorbic acid at the same time?" It could save lives.