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on 18 August 2006
Given the current obsession with food quality and nutrition, this timely book addresses the problem of vitamin deficiency and the quest for a cure for scurvy over the recent past. Long sea voyages by early explorers created many problems for the crews, not least of which was the debilitating effects of scurvy. Frequently fatal, symptoms included rotting of teeth, swelling of limbs and loss of blood. The story of the solution to the problem was suspected for many years as the lack of fresh fruit and vegetables, but why did it take so long to finally solve the affliction? The story is well told by Harvie, and of course is intimately linked to the development of new ways of preserving food for those long sea voyages. One outcome was the development of lime juice, hence the title of the book. But the problem recurred at the turn of the 20th century in expeditions to the arctic and antarctic, and it is thought that scurvy affected Captain Scott in his final fatal trip. It was not until the 1920's that the active ingredient , vitamin C, was isolated that the problem was finally solved. Ths story deserves retelling, and Harvie makes a good contribution to popularising the account. When will we see similar accounts of the conquest of rickets (vitamn D deficiency) and beri-beri (vitamin B deficiency)?
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on 13 January 2009
If you liked Longitude, then this is probably for you.
Another tale of someone with the right answer being frustrated by a combination of vested interest, ignorance and a failure of the imagination by those in authority.
The narrative gives a flavour of life at sea in the days before vitamins were even thought of, much less understood, all brought to life by plenty of eyewitness testimony.
For those how want yet more detail, there are thorough notes and references and a helpful list of further reading.
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