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A Brief History of Vitamins

By Charles Hopkins Published 07/6/2006 | Nutrition

 Feeling sorry for that little kid who can't walk straight? You know, he is suffering from rickets. Had his parents been cautious when he was baby and fed him with sufficient Vitamin D, he would have been running on his feet like any other child in this world. But that might have been their ignorance and this child's ill luck. Vitamins stand absolutely vital among the basic components of the balanced diet. And they cannot be synthesized by the body. You have to supplement the body with necessary vitamins through food or medicine.

How these vitamins were identified and their importance drawn is a very interesting story. Knowing this historical outline of vitamins will definitely widen your knowledge and you will start having it in a more prompt way without failure.

The word "vitamin" was first used by the Polish scientists in the year 1911 which originated from the word "vitamine". In 1905, William Fletcher was doing research on beriberi, when he started analyzing that certain ingredients were missing in the diet that was behind the disease. Sir Frederick Gowland Hopkins, an English bio chemist researched the importance of such food items for the growth of body. 

In 1919 it was seen that rickets could be produced in the dogs. When the dogs were kept inside the doors and they were not much exposed to the sunlight the risks of developing rickets increased. The chances of rickets also increased if they were given a diet full of oat meal. Mellanby, a scientist of that time also proved the fact that adding cod liver oil to the diet of those dogs could cure them of the disease. Thus, something was missing in the oat meals and present in the cod liver oil.

It was proved in 1923 that the fat soluble vitamin (Vitamin D) was synthesized in the presence of the sun light. Until 1930 the structure of Vitamin D was not determined chemically. Gradually the usage of this vitamin to reduce the chances of rickets was discovered. Another very important fact about this Vitamin D is also known to the scientists that it is in fact a steroid hormone that helps in the gene transcription.

Have you heard of Eupatorium perfoliatum commonly known as Boneset? The scientists came to know about it in the first half of the 20th century that was used to treat those who suffered from cold or fever. The Americans commonly used this as a medicinal plant. People used to keep bundles of this dried Boneset at their homes. The taste was bitter, but the effect was really good. Sometimes it took only a night to cure the disease. Surprisingly enough it was in fact the natural source of Vitamin C. Instead of a multi-vitamin capsule after breakfast, you can have 30grams of Eupatorium perfoliatum.

Likewise Vitamin A was discovered Elmer V. McCollum and M. Davis between the years 1912 and 1914. Researchers saw that butter contained a nutrient that was soluble in fat. Soon the nutrient was known as vitamin A. Elmer V. McCollum also discovered vitamin B in the year 1915. And in 1912 Casimir discovered Vitamin B1. The natural process of synthesizing Vitamin B2 was invented by Max Tishler. This essential vitamin was discovered in the year 1926 by D. T. Smith and E. G. Hendrick. On the other hand Lucy Wills discovered the folic acid in the year 1933.

The dawn of the 20th century revealed an expedition in the world of vitamins.