:: Vitamins and Minerals
The value of certain foods in maintaining health
was recognized long before the first vitamins
were actually identified. In the 18th century,
for example, it had been demonstrated that the
addition of citrus fruits to the diet would prevent
the development of scurvy. In the 19th century
it was shown that substituting unpolished for
polished rice in a rice-based diet would prevent
the development of beriberi.
In 1906 the British biochemist Frederick Hopkins
demonstrated that foods contained necessary "accessory
factors" in addition to proteins, carbohydrates,
fats, minerals, and water. In 1911 the Polish
chemist Casimir Funk discovered that the anti-beriberi
substance in unpolished rice was an amine (a type
of nitrogen-containing compound), so Funk proposed
that it be named vitamine - for "vital amine."
This term soon came to be applied to the accessory
factors in general. It was later discovered that
many vitamins do not contain amines at all. Because
of its widespread use, Funk's term continued to
be applied, but the final letter e was dropped.