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Clin Chem. 1997 Apr;43(4):680-5.

Vitamine--vitamin. The early years of discovery.

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  • 1New York University Medical Center, Department of Pathology, NY 10016, USA.


In 1905, Cornelius Adrianus Pekelharing found that animals fed purified proteins, carbohydrates, fats, inorganic salts, and water would thrive only if small amounts of milk were added to the diet. He concluded that the milk contained some unrecognized substance that in very small quantities was necessary for normal growth and maintenance. In 1911, Casimir Funk isolated a concentrate from rice polishings that cured polyneuritis in pigeons. He named the concentrate "vitamine" because it appeared to be vital to life and because it was probably an amine. Although the concentrate and other "accessory food substances" were not amines, the name stuck, but the final "e" was dropped. In 1913 two groups discovered a "fat-soluble" accessory food substance. Initially believed to be a single vitamin, two separate factors were involved. One, effective against xerophthalmia, was named vitamin A; the other, effective against rickets, was named vitamin D. The factor that prevented scurvy was isolated in 1928. Known as "water-soluble C," it was renamed ascorbic acid.

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