Thursday, January 08, 2009


This is the beginning of a new series of articles on Vitamins.

The word was coined by Sir Jack Cecil Drummond D.Sc., FRIC, FRS (12 Jan 1891—4 Aug or 5 Aug 1952). He was a distinguished biochemist, noted for his work on nutrition as applied to the British diet under rationing during the Second World War. He was murdered, together with his wife and 10-year old daughter, on the night of 4 Aug - 5 Aug 1952 near Lurs, a village or commune in the Basses-Alpes region (now Alpes-de-Haute-Provence) of Southern France. The name derives from 'vital amine' which Polish biochemist Kazimierz Funk contacted to 'Vitamine'. Drummond merely suggested dropping the final 'e' when it became clear that not all vitamins are amines.

The story of vitamins begins with Scottish surgeon James Lind who in 1749, the discovered that citrus foods such as lemons and limes prevented scurvy, disease of sailors in which collagen is not properly formed, causing poor wound healing, bleeding of the gums, severe pain, and death. In 1753, Lind published his Treatise on the Scurvy, which recommended using lemons and limes to avoid scurvy, which was adopted by the Royal Navy. So British sailors and later all Englishmen became known as Limeys.

Others such as Estonian surgeon Nikolai Lunin, Takaki Kanehiro, a British trained doctor of the Japanese Navy, Christiaan Eijkman, a Dutch pathologist working in the Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia) and Sir Frederick Gowland Hopkins OM FRS from Cambridge all made contributions to the realisation that some foods contained "accessory factors" in addition to proteins, carbohydrates, fats, etc. that are necessary for the functions of the human body. Hopkins and Eijkman were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1929 for the discovery of vitamins.

Vitamins are cheap and although we all need them, most are found in a normal diet. Some substances have been proposed as vitamins and are not and for some it has been proposed that we need far higher doses than are in a normal diet. We shall look at this proposition.

The story of vitamins is an exciting one and I shall enjoy writing it over the next few weeks.


Anonymous said...

I'm very interested in hearing about what is known about vitamin intake and CLL, particularly whether people with CLL should or shouldn't take vitamin supplements. This is pertinent for me as I just received a call today from my doctor stating that my Vitamin D level is low, and I'd like to know whether supplementation is recommended.

bob larkin said...

I look forward to your further info on this. My faith in vitamins waxes and wanes. Dr. Dean Adele, a credible and popular U.S. radio physician commentator, feels vitamins are of minimal value, if any. This is especially interesting in wiew of the fact that the profession of his family (I believe his own parents) has been the vitamin business.

Happy New Year to you.

Bob Larkin

Anonymous said...

Dean Adele is a radio personality, and one should not rely on someone on the radio for medical advice. I've listened to him on and off, and he is not infallible.