Lemons: Nasty or Nice?

A quick thought about lemons, are they nasty or are they nice?  I love nothing more than chomping on a slice of lemon; yes I am that embarrassing person at the bar who digs their fingers into the bottom of the glass searching for a sour treat. But for the body- is this a good or a bad thing?

Humans and apes both are animals that cannot produce their own Vitamin C (also known as Ascorbic acid).  Instead we need to eat nice fresh leafy vegetables to get a dose of it, and if we want it particularly concentrated we have a citrus fruit such as a lemon.

 Though there has been much debate over the years, its function is to ensure that there are enough immune cells throughout the body during a common cold infection that can continue to encourage the body’s fight again the illness.  The argument here is that this level of Vitamin C needs to be significantly boosted when the body has a cold for the effect be strong enough.  As a result, doctors encourage us to keep that vitamin C level high at all times and when we are sick we are told to feast on those lemons.

Lemons however are very acidic fruits. This means they have a strong chemical property that allows them to eat through certain solid matter such as that of tooth enamel.  Our teeth as humans are the most important mechanical machinery that we have as part of our digestive system allowing us to break down our food.  The enamel on the outer layer of our teeth is both sturdy and protective of all the underlying nerves and vessels that are highly sensitive and painful when disturbed.  Yet that lemon that enters our mouth hacks away at this calcium composed enamel. It weakens this calcium such that it starts to disintegrate the tooth and both its structure and function is compromised.  So we shouldn’t eat lemons right?

But then, you look to history and the old sailors on the high seas.  These sailors suffered from another disease called scurvy where their gums became swollen and bled and they experienced stiffness in their joints.  This too was from a lack of Vitamin C.  Physician James Lind in the 18th century found that lemons were a quick cure in the prevention of scurvy and were a suitable way to ensure a high dose of vitamin C was administered to patients suffering from these symptoms. 

Finally, Vitamin C is also vital in the maintenance of collagen which is a key protein found in many parts of the body including the skin, bone and funnily enough -in teeth.  It plays a role interacting with multiple enzymes in the teeth to ensure that the collagen protein forms its structure properly and hence the structure of the tooth is maintained.  Again for a lack of Vitamn C- Lemon is the quick fix.

So back and forth you can see that Lemons are not only just important for your immune system boost and the prevention of scurvy but also for ensuring you have maintained collagen structures throughout the body and teeth.  Yet, every time lemon touches the tongue it also scrapes away at that precious tooth enamel that it helps to strengthen.  So is it too confusing to ask whether lemons are nasty or nice?  Or should we say all good things in proportion and leave it at that?  It is  just the sour truth…


–  Scurvy isn’t Cool!, (unknown publication date), Retrieved March 15, 2011, from http://www.monzy.com/scurvy/

–  Pohl, Mitchell DDS (unknown publication date), Adverse effects of lemon sucking on tooth enamel, Retrieved March 15, 2011, from http://www.dental–health.com/lemonsucking.html

K Akhilender Naidu, (2003), Vitamin C in human health and disease is still a mystery ? An overview, Nutrition Journal 2003, 2:7 , Retrieved March 15, 2011, from http://www.nutritionj.com/content/2/1/7

5 Responses to “Lemons: Nasty or Nice?”

  1. karismam says:

    Yes chillis! That would make a great post actually…

  2. Richa Gokhale says:

    Yay for lemons! I’m used to having them around all the time because we have two lemon trees and an orange tree in the backyard. And I’m also worried about acid wear to my teeth, I was glad to see you brought it up! But a lot of the foods I eat, especially fresh fruit/veg, are slightly acidic anyway. So I guess it doesn’t matter too much, as long as the juice is diluted enough. And gentle brushing, with fluroide toothpaste 🙂

  3. Jenny Martin says:

    I agree Karisma. Lemon and chilli is a particularly good combination. But yes, I take your point Josefin – Lagom är bäst!

  4. josefina says:

    I can only comment this post in Swedish because the word for “lagom” doesn’t exist in any other language.

    Swedish: Lagom är bäst!

    ps. Lagom (pronounced [ˈlɑ̀ːɡɔm]) is a Swedish word with no direct English equivalent, meaning.. –> http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lagom

  5. karismam says:

    I LOVE LEMONS!!! Put them on ANYTHING and food instantly tastes better (okay, that sounds a bit like I’m advertising for Guthy-Renker…) The fact that they prevent scurvy (not to mention are good for the immune system and collagen is a bonus) 😀