The historical background of vitamins

The advantages and benefits of eating certain foods to maintain good health was recognized long before vitamins were being discovered. Below follow chronologically arranged time periods revealing the enigma about the vitamins.

  • * The Egyptians knew that the dietary intake of liver could help cure night blindness, a disease now known to be caused by vitamin A deficient diet.

    * During the long ocean trips in the Renaissance period, the passengers were faced with prolonged periods without intake of fresh fruits and vegetables leading to vitamin deficiencies characterizing mostly with scurvy.

    * In 1747, the Scottish surgeon James Lind discovered that citrus fruits help prevent scurvy, a deadly disease where due to improper formation of collagen, bleeding and sores occur, gingivitis, severe pain, and death.

    * In 1884, in Japan, Takaki Kanehiro, physician of the Japanese Fleet, noted that the beriberi disease occurred only among the low ranked sailors who ate nothing but rice (polished), apart from senior officers who consumed west oriented diet.

    * Later in 1897, Christiaan Eijkman discovers that a diet with integral (unpolished) rice prevents the occurrence of the disease beriberi.

    * In 1912, the Polish biochemist Kazimierz Funk (Casimir Funk) suggested the name (Vitamine) or "amines of life" for these complexes of micronutrients, because of the biochemical structure of the amines which he isolated from vitamin B1. The term remained in use up to this day although it was later determined that biochemically not all vitamins are amines.

    * In 1920, Sir Jack Cecil Drummon proposed the final "e" to be omitted in order to reduce the importance of the reference "amine" after researchers began to suspect that not all "vitamins" (especially the vitamin A) have the "amine" component.

    * In 1935, the first artificial vitamin C was synthesized in Zurich. Linus Pauling in the 70s popularized the intake of this vitamin to prevent colds and cancer.

    * During the 90s, a new era begins of inventions and isolating the different types of vitamins, along with the recognition of their biochemical functions, setting daily prescription doses and their commercial production.


27 November 2012

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