History of Naming Vitamins

Naming Vitamins

Advanced Supplements & Nutrition Science

fitFLEX Articles - Learn, Share and Discover

The history of the naming of vitamins began in the early 20th century when Dr. Casimir Funk was searching for a cure for beriberi, a widespread disease in the Far East characterized by muscular weakness, loss of sensation in hands and feet, and heart irregularities. Indeed, many vitamins were discovered in an attempt to cure diseases occurring in large groups , of people or animals; through experimentation, scientists found substances missing from the diet of an afflicted group, and discovered that the introduction of that food(s) would cure the ailment caused by the deficiency.

Usually, a compound was identified, and sometimes named, but wasn't scientifically isolated and officially classified until years later. Dr.. Funk identified a compound in rice husks (rice husks were removed from whole rice to produce the white version) that, when added to the diet, could cure beriberi. Though what we know as "thiamine" wasn't isolated by Dr. Funk, he posited that certain diseases such as beriberi were caused by the lack of special substances in the diet that he called "vitamines." This word was later shortened to "vitamin" You may know t hat thiamine also goes by vitamin B1 - the first of the "Bs" to be discovered.

Most vitamins have official scientific names, such as thiamine, but letters and numbers began to be used in the early 1900's for classification purposes. Scientists then knew of only two factors that needed to be present in a diet for an animal to survive in a lab; these were deemed fat-soluble A and water-soluble B. As more vitamins were discovered, they were classified by a letter - either alphabetically in order of discovery, or by a letter suggesting its role in nutrition. For example, vitamin K came from scientists who identified its role in blood clotting - koagulazion in Danish.

At present, the trend has turned away from assigning letters to vitamins, and we now refer to such compounds by their scientific names, such as folic acid and biotin. According to the Foods & NutnWon Encyclopedia, there are 14 known vitamins: fat-soluble A, 0, E and K; and water-soluble C, thiamine (Br), riboflavin (2), niacin, pyridoxine (B6), biotin, pantothenic acid (83), folic acid, choline and the cobalamins (B12). There are also many "vitamin like substances" such as coenzyme Q10 and, perhaps, other vitamins yet to be discovered You may have heard the well known story of the discovery of vitamin C. Ship crews commonly developed scurvy on long voyages, while sailors on short voyages didn't suffer from It, presumably be- cause fresh fruits remained available on hoard for short trips In the 1700's, British sailors citrus fruits were cured of scurvy That was the first step toward the later discovery of vitamin C, also known as ascorbic acid - which literally means "no-scurvy acid." In this case, the letter "C" has nothing to do with C's roles in the body it's only for classification.

All of this is relevant to bodybuilders because of the role of vitamins in the growth and recovery process. Labels will often refer to a particular vitamin by only one name or the other. Thus, if your multi contains ascorbic acid, you can rest assured that you're getting vitamin C.

Related Articles