Who invented vitamins

Knowledge questions about vitamins

Can humans produce vitamins themselves?

Bacteria, protozoa, plants and animals - they all need vitamins, the crucial cogs in the metabolism. Vitamins do not serve as energy carriers, but are suppliers of countless substances that make the cells' vital metabolism possible. The plant can only thrive if it is supplied with essential nutrients.

In contrast to humans, however, the vitamins are not essential in plants. Plants produce the vitamins they need by themselves. Humans first have to ingest them through food or else they supply themselves with precursors of vitamins, the so-called provitamins, which are then converted into vitamins.

It has not yet been finally clarified why humans lack the ability to produce their own vitamins. One explanation: humans appear much later on the evolutionary ladder.

He may not have had to develop the ability to produce vitamins himself. Food in the form of plants and animals - and therefore also vitamins - was available in sufficient quantities.

One could speculate that, from an evolutionary point of view, one's own vitamin production could have meant a luxury, i.e. an unnecessary expenditure of energy. But why a vitamin can be formed in the human body with vitamin D is unclear.

Vitamin D is important for bone metabolism. It seems to be one of the few vitamins in Germany where a certain undersupply can actually be determined under certain circumstances.

Vitamin D is formed in our skin under the influence of sunlight. Those who spend a lot of time indoors or rarely leave the house could produce too little vitamin D.

It can of course also be ingested through food. If we want to produce enough vitamin D ourselves, half an hour of sunlight per day on the face and uncovered forearms is sufficient.

Which vitamin was discovered first?

At the end of the 19th century, scientists first discovered the secret of vitamins. The trigger was a disease that is very common in large parts of Asia: beriberi. Symptoms were unsteady gait, paralysis, and vomiting; often there was also a fatal heart failure.

It wasn't until the 1890s that the Dutch doctor Christiaan Eijkman discovered that a lack of vitamin B1 (thiamine) caused the disease. Doctor Eijkman was then sent to the Dutch East Indies to research Beriberi, what is now Indonesia.

One day he observed in the courtyard of the naval hospital in Batavia that not only his patients but also chickens were suffering from the insidious nervous disease. As is so often the case with the solution of the riddle, chance was on the side of the competent.

Christiaan Eijkman observed that the chickens were spared the disease if they were not fed white, polished rice, but brown, unpeeled rice. The secret must therefore be hidden in the husk of the grain.

When he also supplied his patients with brown rice, their symptoms also disappeared. In 1897 thiamine, the vitamin B1, was discovered.

It was not until two decades later that the structure of the mysterious material could be deciphered. In 1929 Christiaan Eijkman was honored with the Nobel Prize for his discovery.

Beriberi was still making headlines in Israel in the 21st century. In 2003, many infants suffering from cow's milk allergy were fed a milk substitute made from soy there. At the time, the German manufacturer accidentally failed to add the essential vitamin B1 to the substitute food. More than 20 infants contracted beriberi and three babies died.

Can vitamins break or be destroyed quickly?

Several influencing factors determine the stability of the vitamins. They include heat, oxygen and light, among others. Alone or in combination, they can quickly reduce the vitamin content of foods.

So you should buy fresh and ripe goods, consume them quickly or at least store them appropriately. Even at room temperature, vitamins are immediately affected - half of the vitamins are quickly destroyed after a day. It is important to store in a cool place; cold stops deterioration.

Protection from light and free radicals can also be achieved through appropriate packaging. Milk (vitamin D) is now available in opaque tetra packs. Good vegetable oils are also usually found in tinted bottles.

Any form of preservation through irradiation is also harmful to the vitamins. Frozen foods are better than their reputation - instant shock freezing preserves most of the vitamins.

Canned vegetables are now usually processed freshly harvested and are a good source of vitamins, especially in the winter months. Vegetables and lettuce should not be watered or washed for too long, as water-soluble vitamins are quickly washed out.