Facts about Vitamins – What do you need to know?
They have been around for hundreds of years – if you want to get the basic facts about vitamins this is the place!
Here’s a brief overview of the what you need to know
1) What are vitamins?
2) Micro vs. Macronutrients
3) Where did they come from?
4) Facts about individual vitamins
You have probably spent some time learning about vitamins already – if this is the case then please skip to the individual nutrient pages. Alternatively, use this page as a refresher!
What are Vitamins?
Vitamins are listed in the dictionary as “organic substances essential in minute amounts for normal growth and activity of the body and obtained naturally from plant and animal foods”.
Vitamins are essentially organic substances that your body needs and can’t produce internally – hence why we look at foods and supplements.
They come in two types
1) Fat-soluble (vitamins A, D, E, K, etc.)
2) Water soluble (The B vitamins and Vitamin C, etc.)
There are currently 13 officially recognised vitamins, although what defines each individual vitamin is changing on a constant basis as new discoveries are made. The facts about vitamins are constantly expanding.
Micro vs. Macronutrients
Vitamins are micronutrients, which are substances that help the body metabolise the macronutrients (the usual food substances like carbohydrates, proteins, etc.).
In dictionary terms, the difference between the two is in the amount. We need lots of macronutrients and fewer micronutrients. In reality, they perform different functions.
But that is definitely the topic for another page.
How were vitamins discovered?
The earliest discovery of vitamins I found was by the Egyptians, approximately 3500 B.C. They found that night blindness (caused by a lack of Vitamin A) could be cured with specific foods.
Unfortunately, we forgot these facts about vitamins for a few thousand years.
The ball was picked up again in 1747 by a Scottish naval surgeon called James Lind who discovered that the sailor’s disease (scurvy you sicko!) could be cured by eating various citrus foods, now known to contain Vitamin C.
Another 40 years passed and 100,000 British sailors died before anyone heeded his work.
The story picks up again in 1905 with a doctor named William Fletcher who was working to cure Beriberi found that eating unpolished rice (as opposed to polished rice) prevented the disease.
In 1906 English biochemist Frederick Hopkins found that eating certain foods was important to general health and well-being.
Finally, in 1912 a Polish scientist (Casmir Funk) named these special parts of the food “vitamines” after the Latin word “vita”, meaning health and “amine” from compounds he found in thiamine. The “e” was dropped later on.
Throughout the early half of the 20th century more and more vitamins were discovered and effective mass production of synthetic versions started in 1955 and has accelerated ever since.
Please click on the links below for more information on specific vitamins and what they do.
More Facts About Vitamins