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.
|Vitamer chemical name(s) (list not complete)||Solubility||Recommended dietary allowances
(male, age 19–70)
|Deficiency disease||Upper Intake Level
|Overdose disease||Good sources|
|Vitamin A||Retinol, retinal, and
including beta carotene
|Fat||900 µg||Night-blindness, Hyperkeratosis, and Keratomalacia||3,000 µg||Hypervitaminosis A||Orange, ripe yellow fruits, leafy vegetables, carrots, pumpkin, squash, spinach|
|Vitamin B1||Thiamine||Water||1.2 mg||Beriberi, Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome||N/D||Drowsiness or muscle relaxation with large doses.||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||Niacin, niacinamide||Water||16.0 mg||Pellagra||35.0 mg||Liver damage (doses > 2g/day) andother problems||Meat, fish, eggs, many vegetables, mushrooms, tree nuts|
|Vitamin B5||Pantothenic acid||Water||5.0 mg||Paresthesia||N/D||Diarrhea; possibly nausea and heartburn.||Meat, broccoli, avocados|
|Vitamin B6||Pyridoxine,pyridoxamine, pyridoxal||Water||1.3–1.7 mg||Anemia 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||Dermatitis, enteritis||N/D||Raw egg yolk, liver, peanuts, certain vegetables|
|Vitamin B9||Folic acid, folinic 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||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||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.||1,000 mg||Increased congestive heart failure seen in one large randomized study.||Many fruits and vegetables|
|Vitamin K||phylloquinone,menaquinones||Fat||120 µg||Bleeding diathesis||N/D||Increases coagulation in patients takingwarfarin.||Leafy green vegetables such as spinach|