Humans are the Only Primates that Don’t Produce their Own Vitamin C
Among primates, humans stand out as the sole species unable to produce their own vitamin C, an essential nutrient for various bodily functions. This intriguing phenomenon stems from a genetic mutation that occurred millions of years ago, rendering the gene responsible for vitamin C synthesis nonfunctional. This gene, known as GULO, encodes an enzyme required for the conversion of glucose to vitamin C. This highlights how this mutation leaves humans dependent on dietary intake to meet their vitamin C requirements.
While most primates, including our distant relatives like apes and monkeys, can naturally synthesize vitamin C within their bodies, humans lack this ability due to the GULO gene’s inactivity. Historical research like that found in “Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution” has traced the genetic divergence that led to this condition. This unique trait has spurred theories about the human diet’s evolution and the importance of consuming vitamin C-rich foods. The reliance on external vitamin C sources underscores the significance of incorporating fruits and vegetables into our diet to maintain optimal health.