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The value of eating a certain food to maintain health was recognized long before vitamins were identified. The ancient Egyptians knew that feeding liver to a person would help cure night blindness, an illness now known to be caused by a vitamin A deficiency. The advancement of ocean voyages during the Renaissance resulted in prolonged periods without access to fresh fruits and vegetables, and made illnesses from vitamin deficiency common among ships’ crews.

In 1747, the Scottish surgeon James Lind discovered that citrus foods helped prevent scurvy, a particularly deadly disease 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 British Royal Navy. This led to the nickname Limey for sailors of that organization. Lind’s discovery, however, was not widely accepted by individuals in the Royal Navy’s Arctic expeditions in the 19th century, where it was widely believed that scurvy could be prevented by practicing good hygiene, regular exercise, and maintaining the morale of the crew while on board, rather than by a diet of fresh food. As a result, Arctic expeditions continued to be plagued by scurvy and other deficiency diseases. In the early 20th century, when Robert Falcon Scott made his two expeditions to the Antarctic, the prevailing medical theory was that scurvy was caused by “tainted” canned food.

List of vitamins

Each vitamin is typically used in multiple reactions, and, therefore, most have multiple functions. 

Vitamin generic
descriptor name
Vitamer chemical name(s) (list not complete) Solubility Recommended dietary allowances
(male, age 19–70)[19]
Deficiency disease Upper Intake Level
Overdose disease Good sources
Vitamin A Retinolretinal, and
four carotenoids
including beta carotene
Fat 900 µg Night-blindnessHyperkeratosis, and Keratomalacia[20] 3,000 µg Hypervitaminosis A Orange, ripe yellow fruits, leafy vegetables, carrots, pumpkin, squash, spinach
Vitamin B1 Thiamine Water 1.2 mg BeriberiWernicke-Korsakoff syndrome N/D[21] Drowsiness or muscle relaxation with large doses.[22] Oatmeal, brown rice, vegetables, kale, cauliflower, potatoes, liver, eggs
Vitamin B2 Riboflavin Water 1.3 mg Ariboflavinosis N/D   Dairy products, bananas, popcorn, green beans, asparagus
Vitamin B3 Niacinniacinamide Water 16.0 mg Pellagra 35.0 mg Liver damage (doses > 2g/day)[23] andother problems Meat, fish, eggs, many vegetables, mushrooms, tree nuts
Vitamin B5 Pantothenic acid Water 5.0 mg[24] Paresthesia N/D Diarrhea; possibly nausea and heartburn.[25] Meat, broccoli, avocados
Vitamin B6 Pyridoxine,pyridoxaminepyridoxal Water 1.3–1.7 mg Anemia[26] peripheral neuropathy. 100 mg Impairment of proprioception, nerve damage (doses > 100 mg/day) Meat, vegetables, tree nuts, bananas
Vitamin B7 Biotin Water 30.0 µg Dermatitisenteritis N/D   Raw egg yolk, liver, peanuts, certain vegetables
Vitamin B9 Folic acidfolinic acid Water 400 µg Megaloblast and Deficiency during pregnancy is associated with birth defects, such as neural tubedefects 1,000 µg May mask symptoms of vitamin B12deficiency; other effects. Leafy vegetables, pasta, bread, cereal, liver
Vitamin B12 Cyanocobalamin,hydroxycobalamin,methylcobalamin Water 2.4 µg Megaloblastic anemia[27] N/D Acne-like rash [causality is not conclusively established]. Meat and other animal products
Vitamin C Ascorbic acid Water 90.0 mg Scurvy 2,000 mg Vitamin C megadosage Many fruits and vegetables, liver
Vitamin D Cholecalciferol Fat 5.0 µg–10 µg[28] Rickets and Osteomalacia 50 µg Hypervitaminosis D Fish, eggs, liver, mushrooms
Vitamin E Tocopherols,tocotrienols Fat 15.0 mg Deficiency is very rare; mildhemolytic anemia in newborn infants.[29] 1,000 mg Increased congestive heart failure seen in one large randomized study.[30] Many fruits and vegetables
Vitamin K phylloquinone,menaquinones Fat 120 µg Bleeding diathesis N/D Increases coagulation in patients takingwarfarin.[31] Leafy green vegetables such as spinach


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