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The discovery of vitamins and minerals

Vitamin tablets and capsules of different sizes

Vitamins and minerals are essential nutrients that our body needs to function properly. Their discovery was the result of years of research and debate among scientists.

Early work on vitamins

The first clue that certain nutrients were essential for health was discovered in the 18th century, when British sailors began suffering from scurvy during long sea voyages. In 1747, British physician James Lind conducted an experiment to determine the causes scurvy and discovered that lemon juice could prevent the disease. This led to the theory that certain foods contained "anti-scorbutic principles" that were essential for health.

In the 19th century, scientists began to identify individual nutrients in foods. In 1816, French chemist Michel Eugène Chevreul discovered lecithin, a component of eggs that was eventually identified as a B-complex vitamin. In 1874, German chemist Carl Voit discovered that rats fed white bread developed the beriberi, a disease that was later attributed to lack of vitamin B1.

The discovery of fat-soluble vitamins

The concept of vitamin was first formulated by Polish biochemist Casimir Funk in 1912. Funk was studying nutrients in rice and identified a substance he called "vitamin" that was essential for preventing beriberi. He later identified other similar nutrients, such as vitamin C and vitamin B, and suggested that these substances were necessary for health.

In the years that followed, other scientists identified fat-soluble vitamins, which are soluble in fat, such as vitamin A and vitamin D. Vitamin A was discovered in 1913 by British scientists Elmer McCollum and Marguerite Davis , who isolated the substance from cod liver butter and oil. Vitamin D was discovered in 1922 by American biochemist Elmer McCollum and British pediatrician Edward Mellanby, who identified the substance as necessary to prevent rickets.

The discovery of water-soluble vitamins

In the 1930s, scientists began to discover water-soluble vitamins, which are soluble in water, such as vitamin C and the B-complex vitamins. Vitamin C was identified in 1932 by American biochemist Albert Szent-Györgyi , who isolated the substance from peppers and lemons. B complex vitamins were discovered by several scientists, including biochem

English biochemist Frederick Gowland Hopkins, who received the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1929 for his work on vitamins.

Over the years, research into vitamins and minerals has continued to expand, and their role in human health and well-being has become increasingly understood. Today, it is well established that vitamins and minerals are necessary for many essential bodily functions, such as vision, growth and development, blood clotting, bone health, immune function and much more .


The discovery of vitamins and minerals was a complex process that required years of research and debate among scientists. Vitamins were first discovered in the 20th century, but their role in the body was understood much later. Thanks to this research, we now understand the importance of these nutrients to human health and well-being. It is important to ensure that we have enough of these nutrients in our diet to maintain good health.

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  • This article was produced with the help of artificial intelligence (AI), here are the sources provided by this tool:
    • Institute of Medicine (US) Standing Committee on the Scientific Evaluation of Dietary Reference Intakes. (1998). Dietary reference intakes for thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B6, folate, vitamin B12, pantothenic acid, biotin, and choline. National Academies Press (US).
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    • Pappas, A.C. (2015). The history and evolution of the discovery of vitamins. Annals of nutrition & metabolism, 67(suppl. 2), 2-6.
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    • Scott, E.M. (1989). Frederick Gowland Hopkins, 1861-1947. British Journal of Nutrition, 61(1), 1-16.
    • Wills, L. (1941). The prevention of scurvy. Cambridge University Press.



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