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A Treatise on the Scurvy

James Lind (1716-1794) was a Scottish physician. He is known today for his studies on the causes and remedies of the sailor’s disease scurvy.

Dr. Lind entered the navy in 1739 and, in 1747, became surgeon on a ship in the Bay of Biscay, the HMS Salisbury. It was there that he proved the health benefits of citrus fruits in scurvy. In a well-designed experiment, he treated six different groups of sailors with different dietary additions, including vinegar, saltwater and spices. But only the group of scurvy patients who received oranges and lemons recovered.

In 1753 he summarized his findings in a book, ‘A treatise on the scurvy’. This book, however, was virtually ignored and Dr. Lind’s simple recommendations to save the lives of sailors were neglected.

James Lind (1716-1794)

Amazingly, it took another 40 years before Dr. Lind’s recommendations were finally adopted by the British admiralty and lemon juice and limes were distributed to every sailor.

Imagine how many thousands of sailors had to die for one simple reason: the resistance of the status quo to new discoveries and the obstructive power of old dogmas.

Scurvy affected the lives of thousands of sailors at that time. Today, chronic diseases are killing millions of people every year. The numbers dying today are by an order of magnitude bigger than that of scurvy – and so therefore is the responsibility of those who now block the possible control of chronic diseases via the widespread use of vitamins and other micronutrients.