top of page
Sphere on Spiral Stairs

How Vitamins Were Discovered: A Fascinating Story

Vitamins are essential nutrients that our bodies need to function properly. But how were they discovered?

In this blog post, we explore the fascinating story of the discovery of vitamins, from the early nineteenth century to the present day.

We'll learn about the scientists who made this discovery possible and the diseases that were caused by vitamin deficiency.

We'll also discuss the importance of vitamins for good health and how to get the vitamins you need.


The discovery of vitamins.

The discovery of vitamins is a fascinating story that began in the early nineteenth century. At the time, scientists were beginning to understand the importance of nutrition for health. They knew that certain foods, such as fruits and vegetables, were essential for good health, but they didn't know why.

In 1912, a Polish biochemist named Casimir Funk coined the term "vitamine" to describe these essential nutrients. He believed that vitamins were "vital amines," or organic compounds that contained nitrogen. However, Funk's theory was incorrect, as not all vitamins contain nitrogen. The "e" at the end of the word was later dropped, and the term "vitamin" is now used to refer to all essential nutrients that the body cannot produce on its own.

Funk's discovery was a major scientific achievement, but it wasn't until the 1930s that scientists were able to isolate and identify the individual vitamins. This was made possible by the development of new techniques, such as chromatography and spectroscopy.


The discovery of vitamins led to the development of new treatments for vitamin deficiencies.

The discovery of vitamins also helped to improve our understanding of how the body uses nutrients. Scientists now know that vitamins are essential for a variety of bodily functions, and that a deficiency in any vitamin can lead to health problems.


The first scientists to investigate the link between diet and health.

Christiaan Eijkman was a Dutch physician who was working in the Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia) in the late 1800s. At the time, beriberi was a major problem in the region, and it was killing thousands of people.

Eijkman was working with chickens that were suffering from beriberi. He noticed that the chickens who were fed a diet of polished rice were more likely to get beriberi than the chickens who were fed a diet of unpolished rice.

Polished rice is the outer layer of the rice grain that has been removed. This layer contains thiamin, a vitamin that is essential for good health. When the chickens were fed polished rice, they were not getting enough thiamin, and they developed beriberi.

Eijkman eventually discovered that beriberi was caused by a lack of vitamin B1 (thiamin). This was the first time that a specific vitamin had been linked to a specific disease.

Eijkman's discovery led to the development of a treatment for beriberi. The treatment is simply to add thiamin to the diet. This simple treatment has saved the lives of millions of people.

Eijkman's discovery also helped to improve our understanding of nutrition. Scientists now know that vitamins are essential for good health, and that a deficiency in any vitamin can lead to health problems.

Eijkman's work was a major scientific achievement, and it had a profound impact on public health. He is considered one of the pioneers of vitamin research, and his work helped to lay the foundation for our modern understanding of nutrition.

Here are some additional details about Eijkman's discovery:

  • He conducted his experiments in a prison, where he was able to control the diet of the chickens.

  • He also experimented with other animals, such as pigeons and dogs.

  • He was able to cure beriberi in the chickens by adding thiamin to their diet.

  • He published his findings in 1911, and they were met with great excitement by the scientific community.

  • Eijkman was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1929, along with Frederick Gowland Hopkins.


Today, we know that there are 13 essential vitamins. They are divided into two groups: fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, and K) and water-soluble vitamins (C and the B vitamins).

Fat-soluble vitamins are stored in the body's fat tissues, and they do not need to be consumed on a daily basis. Water-soluble vitamins are not stored in the body, and they need to be consumed on a daily basis.

13 essential vitamins

  • Vitamin A: It is important for vision, growth, and development. It is also involved in the immune system. Vitamin A deficiency can cause night blindness, dry eyes, and skin problems.

  • Vitamin B1 (Thiamine): It is important for energy production and nerve function. Vitamin B1 deficiency can cause beriberi, which can lead to fatigue, weakness, and heart problems.

  • Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin): It is important for energy production and cell growth. Vitamin B2 deficiency can cause cheilosis, a condition that causes sores around the mouth, and anemia.

  • Vitamin B3 (Niacin): It is important for energy production and cell function. Vitamin B3 deficiency can cause pellagra, which can lead to skin problems, diarrhea, and dementia.

  • Vitamin B5 (Pantothenic acid): It is important for energy production and the metabolism of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. Vitamin B5 deficiency is rare.

  • Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine): It is important for energy production, brain function, and the production of red blood cells. Vitamin B6 deficiency can cause anemia, skin problems, and nerve problems.

  • Vitamin B7 (Biotin): It is important for energy production and the metabolism of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. Vitamin B7 deficiency is rare.

  • Vitamin B9 (Folate): It is important for cell growth and development. Vitamin B9 deficiency can cause anemia and birth defects.

  • Vitamin B12 (Cobalamin): It is important for cell growth and development, and the production of red blood cells. Vitamin B12 deficiency can cause anemia, fatigue, and nerve problems.

  • Vitamin C (Ascorbic acid): It is important for immune function, wound healing, and the production of collagen. Vitamin C deficiency can cause scurvy, which can lead to bleeding gums, loose teeth, and joint pain.

  • Vitamin D: It is important for bone health and the absorption of calcium. Vitamin D deficiency can cause rickets, a condition that causes the bones to become soft and deformed.

  • Vitamin E: It is important for cell protection and immune function. Vitamin E deficiency is rare.

  • Vitamin K: It is important for blood clotting. Vitamin K deficiency can cause bleeding problems.

The discovery of vitamins was a major breakthrough in our understanding of health and disease. It led to the development of new treatments for vitamin deficiencies, such as beriberi and scurvy. It also helped to improve our understanding of how the body uses nutrients.

Here are some of the specific diseases that were caused by vitamin deficiency and the vitamins that cured them:

  • Beriberi: A deficiency of vitamin B1 (thiamin) causes beriberi, which can lead to fatigue, weakness, and heart problems.

  • Scurvy: A deficiency of vitamin C causes scurvy, which can lead to bleeding gums, loose teeth, and joint pain.

  • Night blindness: A deficiency of vitamin A can cause night blindness, which is the inability to see in low light.

  • Rickets: A deficiency of vitamin D can cause rickets, which is a condition that causes the bones to become soft and deformed.

  • Pellagra: A deficiency of niacin (vitamin B3) can cause pellagra, which can lead to skin problems, diarrhea, and dementia.


Vitamins are essential nutrients that our bodies need to function properly. They are involved in a variety of bodily functions, including:

  • Energy production: Vitamins help the body convert food into energy. For example, vitamin B1 (thiamin) is essential for the production of energy from carbohydrates.

  • Growth and development: Vitamins are essential for the growth and development of the body. For example, vitamin A is essential for the development of the eyes and bones.

  • Immune function: Vitamins help the body fight off infection. For example, vitamin C is essential for the production of white blood cells, which help the body fight infection.

  • Bone health: Vitamins help keep bones strong and healthy. For example, vitamin D is essential for the absorption of calcium, which is needed for bone growth and maintenance.

The discovery of vitamins has had a major impact on public health. By ensuring that people get the vitamins they need, we can prevent these diseases and improve overall health and well-being.

Vitamins are essential for good health. A balanced diet that includes a variety of foods is the best way to ensure that you are getting the vitamins you need.

If you are concerned that you may be deficient in a certain vitamin, you should talk to your doctor. They can help you determine if you need to take a vitamin supplement.

11 views0 comments

Comments

Rated 0 out of 5 stars.
No ratings yet

Add a rating
bottom of page