Have You ever wondered what these little compounds are which we need so that we can survive?
Yes, and talking about Vitamins today, I want to start with a little introduction about Vitamins.
How do we know that we need Vitamins?
In the late 19th century, 1881 to be precise, the Russian chemist and doctor Nikolai Lunin did some experiments with mice. He fed them with the separated parts of milk, which were known at that time. It was protein, fat, carbohydrates and salt. And what he discovered was, that all the mice died, whereas they survived when fed with milk.
He concluded that there had to be more in the milk than the recently known parts, such as protein, fat, carbohydrates and salt, what the mice need to survive.
That was the first time the idea of vitamins came up and that it could be the same with human beings.
How long did it take to discover the first Vitamin and where does the name “Vitamin” comes from?
At the beginning of the 20th century, the polish biochemist Casimir Funk did some research on an illness called BeriBeri, which came up in some Asian countries like Japan and Java. People who had only eaten the newly peeled rice instead of the unpeeled one started to felt weaker and weaker.
Funk concluded that there has to be something essential for health in the husk of the rice what the human body cannot produce itself.
He examined the rice husk and found a nitrogenous compound. Today we know it as thiamine (B1). Therefore, in 1912 he created the name “Vita” – “amin”. “Vita” stands for life and “amin” stands for the nitrogenous compound. It will be
found out later that this is not the case for all vitamins, as not all of them have amino groups.
What is the rest of the story?
The other 12 vitamins (A, B-Complex, C, D, E, K), which are essential for humans were discovered in the following years until 1941.
It was a breakthrough in understanding and healing other common vitamin deficiency diseases such as scurvy and rickets.
So the history of the discovery of vitamins is not older than 100 years and it gives us the possibility to live a healthy and powerful life.
Let us know what you find most remarkable about the discovery of vitamins?