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Discovery of Vitamins

In today’s day and age, we are all aware that vitamins are an essential part of a healthy diet; however, this hasn’t always been the case. Here are some interesting facts about how vitamins were discovered and who got the credit.

  • In the 1800s Nikolai Lunin discovered that synthetic milk lacked “unknown substances”. These ‘unknown substances’ were necessary for life.1
  • Cornelius Adrianus Pekelharing found that these unknown substances were necessary for the uptake of other dietary components.
  • In studies done by Christiaan Eijkman it was further discovered that there was an unknown substance in unpolished rice which could prevent polyneuritis in birds. This disease is seen in humans as beriberi.
  • An assistant to Eijkman by the name of Gerrit Grijns postulated that beriberi could be attributed to a nutritional deficiency.
  • In 1911 a chemist, Casimir Funk, was able to isolate a chemical compound from rice polishings. The compound was thought to contain an amine, and because Funk found it to be “vital for life” he decided to call it a “vitamine”.
  • The vitamine became vitamin in 1920 when Jack Cecil Drummond pointed out that these compounds didn’t necessarily contain any amines.
  • We can also thank Drummond for simplifying the names of fat-soluble A, water-soluble B, and water-soluble C to vitamins A, B, and C.
  • In 1913 Fat-soluble A (later to be called vitamin A) was discovered by Elmer Verner McCollum, Marguerite Davis, Lafayette Benedict Mendel, and Thomas Burr Osborne; however, McCollum and Davis got the credit.
  • It was in 1922 that McCollum and his fellow researchers were able to isolate and identify vitamin D in cod liver oil.


  1. Louis Rosenfeld, Vitamine—vitamin. The early years of discovery, Clinical Chemistry, Volume 43, Issue 4, 1 April 1997, Pages 680–685,

The Elusive Path of Vitamin D’s Discovery

  • In 1913 a growth essential substance was discovered to be found in certain fats.1
  • These fats were found to be important in disease prevention.
  • The first substance to be identified was vitamin A.
  • Edward Mellanby studied several of these fats, and declared that cod liver oil was the best of them all.
  • In 1922 Elmer McCollum and his fellow researchers found that cod liver oil contained a substance separate from vitamin A.
  • This substance was found to be so important that McCollum et al. proposed that it was indeed a fourth vitamin with properties related to bone metabolism.
  1. McCollum, E V et al. Studies on experimental rickets. XXI. An experimental demonstration of the existence of a vitamin which promotes calcium deposition. Journal of Biological Chemistry, Volume 53, Issue 2, 1922, Pages 293-312, ISSN 0021-9258,

Oral to Overall Health

Dr. Weston A. Price was a firm believer in the idea that oral health serves an integral part in overall health. In his travels and research around the world, he was able to show it was all connected to the nutritional value of the food we eat. Below you will find a collection of articles highlighting how oral health, overall health, and nutrition are all interconnected.

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