The discovery of vitamins has been a fascinating journey that has spanned centuries. It all began in the late 18th and early 19th centuries when scientists used deprivation studies to isolate and identify several vitamins. For example, James Lind, a Scottish doctor, is credited with discovering that scurvy can be prevented by consuming citrus fruits, even though at that time it was not known that vitamin C deficiency was the main cause. In 1912, Polish biochemist Casimir Funk discovered that four chemicals B1, B2, C and D seem vital to keeping the body healthy.
Thinking that they all come from the chemical family of amines, Funk calls them “vital amines” which was later shortened to the simplest term “vitamins”. Another 24 years passed before the Nobel Committee for Physiology or Medicine awarded another prize for their work related to a vitamin. This was for George Wald, one of the three winners “for his discoveries about the main visual, physiological and chemical processes of the eye”. He grew up in Brooklyn as the son of poor Jewish immigrant parents and, after training in medicine at New York University (USA).
With Selig Hecht, he obtained a grant in 1932 to work in the Otto Warburg laboratory in Berlin, where he dissected animal retinas to obtain the light-sensitive purple compound rhodopsin and found, through a chemical test, that retinas apparently contained vitamin A.For example, rats were used in controlled diet experiments to measure vitamin A in test foods, while human needs for vitamin A were based on studies conducted on people who measured the amount of vitamin needed to prevent night blindness, one of the first recognizable signs Deficiency. The following Physiology or Medicine prizes in the field of vitamins were awarded to Henrik Dam and Edward Doisy in 1943. At the same time, images of laboratory animals began to appear in print, demonstrating the physical effects of severe vitamin deficiency. The scientists used the results of a handful of human subjects and rat tests to determine the amount of food, such as milk, eggs and green leafy vegetables, needed to meet people's vitamin needs. In the late 1950s, when several vitamin producers marketed their pills in imitation apothecary bottles, vitamins were figuratively “dressed” for dinner. Vitamin pills came of age in a country worried about economic depression and war, and grew with the return to prosperity and subsequent consumer-oriented culture. Doctors soon recognized that scurvy, beriberi, rickets, pellagra and xerophthalmia were specific vitamin deficiencies rather than diseases due to infections or toxins.
The stamps contained five B vitamins, along with vitamins A, C and D, and nine minerals adding up to a staggering seventeen ingredients. Today vitamins are a staple in American medicine cabinets. We have come a long way since James Lind's discovery of scurvy prevention through citrus fruits. There are now other D vitamins recognized as other substances which some sources include up to D7.