There was a time when I thought that our developed Western civilization, few diseases have recently been overcome with the help of science, of tehnolgiei, the economy. Travel today, today’s cities, life today, as a whole, seemed to leave no room for ailments that, over time, while I did not know that they are due to lack of essential vitamins and minerals, seceraseră thousand lives. And yet … Like ghosts of the past, almost forgotten disease back today, proving that we still do not know enough or if we do not correctly apply what we know. In other contexts, for reasons other than a century ago or two, they are still the same disease occurrence, lifting us from our vain confidence, tulburându us and giving us lessons.
One of these strange diseases – for Western doctors today – is scurvy, once a scourge of sailors, the explorers, soldiers sometimes, all those who, for months on end, were deprived of fresh food. Scurvy is caused by a deficiency of vitamin C, required the synthesis of collagen present in tissues. In the living world, there are numerous vertebrate speciii can synthesize vitamin C, can produce their own body, man, but not part of these species. People depend entirely on external sources to ensure their needs vitamin C, in other words, it must obtain from food. Under ordinary conditions, this was not a problem for even the poorest people were, in general, access to natural sources of vitamin C fruits, vegetables, greens – cultivated and wild – a supply sufficient.
Completely different job but stood at sea. In times when travel on the increase lasted for months, without the possibility of supply staff lived feeding vessels are mainly cereal-based products and salted and smoked meat, which explains why seafarers were the main victims of scurvy. Possible to keep food fresh there were not, few fruits and vegetables are loaded quickly exhausted, once they are passed on based diet sticks and pastrami, the amount of vitamin C in the body decrease rapidly, without the possibility of replacing them, and symptoms of scurvy made their appearance. A weakness, fatigue, an invincible lethargy seizes the sailors; gums are swelled and began to bleed, the body are covered with purple spots. As the disease progress, their teeth fell, appeared to be infected and festering wounds, grinding his fever, body aches crushing them, mind them blur, poor patients became unable to move and still, finally, after several weeks of suffering, dying.
Scurvy was, for hundreds of years, a plague of the profession (as we say now); experts consider it one of the factors that have long limited the development of maritime transport, given that, technologically speaking, there were enough ships strength to face the big ocean.
The disease was known since antiquity, when there were some herbal remedies to treat them. Of course, nobody knew anything then about vitamins, and this situation continued until 1932, when he established the link between vitamin C and scurvy.
Interestingly, despite the lack of any knowledge about vitamins, but is discovered that certain foods, especially citrus fruits, could prevent and even cure scurvy, that disease is too advanced. Since the age of great geographical discoveries, fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, it was known, in later centuries, there is mention of this method in various documents, however, scurvy was still raging.
In a paper published in 2001, author, Jonathan Lamb, says that in 1499, Vasco da Gama lost 116 of the 170 members of his crew, and in 1520, 208 of the 230 men who accompanied Magellan on his journey around the world to have perished, in both cases, most deaths were due to scurvy. Method was not applied consistently citrus, not everyone knew it and believed in it, or fruit could not be kept long, or not enough for everyone, two supply stops, the fact is that scurvy killed an enormous number of sailors. It is estimated that between 1500 and 1800, at least 2 million sailors have been victims of disease.
In 1747, a British Royal Navy surgeon, James Lind, a treatment method tested on a group of nuns citrus and then outlined his findings in a treatise on scurvy, published in 1853. (It’s an important moment in science: the experiment was practically the first clinical trial, the precursor of trials are now required to validate any method of treatment.)
Even so, decades have passed until the first method to be applied widely among European navies. There is still confusion about the effectiveness of citrus fruits. Canned juice will not curative (due to rapid oxidation of vitamin C, so that people of the eighteenth century and nineteenth century even do not know) and it contained fresh meat mouse amounts of vitamin C and promote healing , so that many believed that fruit, but fresh meat as suitable remedy, after the appearance of canned, it was believed that disease was caused by spoiled corned …
Later, until 1932, after many endeavors of scholars, was established ties between vitamin C and scurvy. American researcher Charles Glen King of the University of Pittsburgh have identified the mysterious substance the power to prevent and cure scurvy as vitamin C, subsequently renamed ascorbic acid in order to underline its importance in combating this disease.
When was this, scurvy had lost much of its power to kill people. Cases appear, especially in wartime, when soldiers and prisoners rations did not include sufficient vitamin C. Moreover, in recent decades in Western society at least, scurvy began to be regarded as a disease of the past, we know that there, that made many victims, but most doctors in Europe have not seen a single case in their whole career. This is because, largely, now ingest about everyone (even the sailors), in one form or another, enough vitamin C from food, not to mention vitamin supplements that you take some.
The more bizarre it seems, in this century, scurvy resurgence in developed countries like the United Kingdom.
A story of 2009 indicate that the number of British children hospitalized with the diagnosis “scurvy” increased by 50% in 2007-2008 to 2004-2005. It was not a large number of cases – several dozen – but there were worrying circumstances: these children were diagnosed with scurvy clear, but who knows how many other cases were not diagnosed correctly? Many doctors do not know well enough that it rare to be able to correctly identify correctly and often make a diagnosis more generally, for example malnutrition. So in reality, the number could be much higher. Even if it has, indeed, related to malnutrition, scurvy is a disease caused by a specific shortcomings and it is important to recognize, that the doctor can make appropriate recommendations.
Medical organizations and public health services were very surprised to discover – seemed so unlikely in this century, children in developed countries suffer such Deficiency disease that did not know exactly what to give explanations phenomenon.
Ursula Arens, of the British Dietetic Association, said he can not know at that time, if the appearance of scurvy in children due to those unhealthy diet, or was the result of serious illness (like cancer) who consumed the body resources. But that could be said about children from poor backgrounds, who lived probably eating mostly foods like bread and jam, a diet low in vitamin C, which predisposes to the occurrence of ascorbic acid deficiency and, consequently, the scurvy. How many wild plants (humble “weeds” that our ancestors ate a predominantly rural Europe are not known and consumed today (or readily available in Europe urbanized), poor families are in a feeding cheap calories with more processed and less nutritious food, resulting in malnutrition. scurvy is one manifestation of this state of affairs.
A second condition whose resurgence worries doctors is rickets, a disease also Deficiency, datotrată lack of calcium and / or vitamin D. I wrote and / or calcium deaorece there are cases where otherwise existing in sufficient quantity in the diet, not used properly by the body due to lack of Vitamin D. vitamimei necessarily necesarpă for fixing calcium in bone mineralization therefore appropriate and normal skeletal development. If an impairment of calcium absorption and bone fixation, the bones of children grow up poor, not density corspunzătoare (“is soft”, as they say), and during growth, rather than develop harmonious form of a healthy body undergoes various deformations of a competent physician who told him that the child to have poor bone mineralization.
Rickets was once a true epidemic. The full Industrial Revolution, Western Europe was heaven on large portions, dark thick blanket of smoke. The big plants fueled with coal, threw permanent outdoor black smoke rolls, sometimes over large industrialized cities, became so although that largely prevented sunlight to reach the Earth. Numerous paintings and engravings made during 1850-1900 documented this phenomenon.
Unlike vitamin C, which we can not buy only from external sources, vitamin D can be synthesized by the body through a natural mechanism effectively as possible: it is produced by our bodies under the influence of sunlight. But when you live under a black blanket of smog, without the benefits of sunlight, natural mechanisms of vitamin D synthesis is prevented from operating. The body suffers from lack of this vitamin, and one consequence of this deficiency is defective mineralization: calcium not “strengthen” the right way up the fragile skeleton of the child and his teeth.
Exactly this happened in the nineteenth century and early twentieth century in London, for example, then famous for clogged air from industrial outskirts of living poor: slum sinister, ugly children that swarmed pale, malnourished, not rarely deformed limbs and trunk of rickets. Over three quarters of children in industrial cities suffered from the disease, then considered a disease of poverty.
But with technological advancement has somewhat cleared the air of pollutants (pollution that we mourn our day in Europe is not even remotely compares to what living day by day, 1880 people, for example), with recommendations on daily exposure to sunlight and contribution preventive treatment with fish oil (as called us), cod liver oil, rich in vitamin D (and children forced to take daily tablespoon resented it, in general) until the 1950s, the prevalence of rickets fell impressive. Doctors believed that “defeated” the disease. For decades, they have prescribed preventive treatment with calcium and vitamin D for growing children, but the number was less severe cases of rickets.
But behold rickets strikes again! Developed countries in Europe face a return of the disease in North America also report many cases unexpected. Rickets today has the same biological question – Vitamin D – but other predisposing factors, other socio-cultural context.
On the one hand, it’s warnings (and repeated until the panic underlined) on the harmful effects of sun exposure and the need to protect children by their anointing, from head to foot, several times a day with cream factor high sun protection (plus aggressive advertising made those products). On the other hand, however Western society children are less and less on the outside and all over the house. For parents, the street – where children from 3-4 decades ago spent much of his time playing – began to seem a very dangerous, and in them the children, they are not necessarily related play out, you can have fun and at home with what, on TV shows and various activities have replaced the computer, therefore, Hopscotch and Tag.
This explains many cases of rickets that are emerging in European countries (shocking them and doctors) in regions that have need of the sun and where people do not suffer any hunger.
One of the doctors who feel shocked phenomenon is a British specialist, Nicholas Clarke, orthopedic surgeon at Southampton General Hospital. He and his colleagues recently studied 200 children who had problems in the bones and found that 40 of them had rickets in its own right. 40 of 200! That means 20%, a fifth of them! Whatever they say, is indeed surprising (shocking, Dr. Clarke’s) to see such a thing in a developed country like the United Kingdom (especially since those babies grown in the south, where, according to doctor, enough sunshine ).
But an explanation is: rickets is not a disease of poverty, as it was 100 years ago. Instead, now many children from families with a good financial situation at home enjoy entertainment opportunities that make them no longer want to leave the house, move away and generally spend more time indoors, artificial light. The result: a chronic vitamin D deficiency, manifested by rickets, with irreversible changes of the skeleton.
Failure to spend their lives predominantly in the house has serious long term health. Moreover, not only children suffer from this phenomenon. And among the adult population, and especially of the elderly, there is a growing tendency to lean out of the house. As a result, much of the population suffering from a chronic lack of vitamin D (British statistics show that approximately 70% of children would have this problem.)
Vitamin that, besides its role in skeletal health and teeth, is very important functions (recently discovered) the body’s immune defense in combating inflammation states in maintaining mental health, especially in old age, and preventing installation cardiovascular disease. Recently, German researchers have discovered that there is a direct link between low vitamin D and heart disease deaths.
Probably, a large proportion of disease which we complain is due to vitamin D deficiency and could be prevented by activating natural synthesis: exposure to sunlight.
With moderation dictated by common sense, obvious sunshine hours is not the beach in a sun beating mercilessly (and in any case, solar tanning!). Very recent research has shown that the sun is good in small doses, taken regularly: a few hours this weekend, tens of minutes daily, each as may the light of and individual sensitivity (those redheads with pale skin need advanced protection, because they have a higher risk of sunburn).
So, “and frequent short exposures – key successes” in health. (And those who think it’s enough to take vitamin D supplements, you should be cautious: supravitaminizarea is dangerous, and excess vitamin D is very harmful.)
In conclusion, not only the modern era has its own specific diseases, but did not miss any of those of the past. Not always easy to recognize, not always possible to cure, once the damage they produced are too large, these diseases always remind us that evolution has placed us in balance with what is around – sun, air , good to eat plants, other food resources – and that disturbing this balance does not remain without consequences never.