Friday, August 7, 2009

History of Vitamins (Part I)

History of Vitamins (Part I)
The development of the modern concept of vitamins can be roughly divided into three (broadly overlapping) periods:
  1. Empirical healing of some diseases by administration of certain foods
  2. Experimental induction of dietary disease in animals
  3. Administration of synthetic diets to discover essential nutritional factors.

The first phase began many centuries ago, and gradually led to the recognition that night blindness, scurvy, beriberi and rackets are dietary diseases.

The ancient Greeks, Romans and Arabs healed night blindness with liver. In the 16th century, scurvy was healed using extracts of spruce needles, and in the 18th century, oranges and lemons were used; the issue of lemon juice to sailors in the English navy was required by law by the beginning of the 19th century.

At the end of the 19th century, the Japanese navy realized that beriberi was in someway connected with a diet of rice; the disease was successfully combated by replacing the rice with barley or by increasing the rations of meat and vegetables.

In the same period, it was learned that rickets could be prevented and cured by administration of fish liver oil.

The second phase was characterized by the used of experimental animals, in which dietary disease were deliberately induced and then healed.

The animal experiments made possible systematic study of diet related disease in human beings and animals.

In 1890, C. Eijkman discovered that polished rice, when given to chickens as their main food, caused polyneuritis (degeneration of the peripheral nerves).

This disease is similar to human beriberi.

Eijkman then demonstrated that non-polished rice or polished rice +rice bran, when given as feed, healed the polyneuritis.

These experiments led to the postulate that beriberi was caused by the lack of a nutritional substance.

Similarly, in 1907, A. Holst and T. Frohlich reported experimentally induce scurvy in guinea pigs and the healing of the condition by the same agents which are effective in human beings.
History of Vitamins (Part I)

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