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The Vitamines

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When Casimir Funk published the second edition of The Vita- mines (1922), the world was still reeling from the devastating effects of the Great War. Funk’s revised and updated book had been delayed by the conflict, but it gave him time and reason to reflect upon the lessons of the war. He noted that, in times of peace and prosperity, “it is easy to see that no knowledge of vitamines is necessary to keep those people in good health.” The upheaval had delivered some poignant lessons about nutritional deprivation. “The knowledge of centuries suddenly becomes useless to the people … untold hardships are endured … the population functioning similar to experimental animals, used to establish the value of new foodstuff s.” The paramount importance of vitamins was readily becoming apparent, through laboratory work and clinical observations. During the war, young children living on skimmed milk and margarine were afflicted with xerophthalmia and high mortality in Denmark, rickets was rampant among children in Vienna, laborers were dropping dead with beriberi in South East Asia and pellagra killed countless mill workers in the southern US. Emerging insights on vitamins had helped to save hundreds of thousands of lives. Funk noted: “… it is a source of great pleasure to witness the great progress that has been made in vitamine research. In our opinion, the name “Vitamine”, proposed by us in 1912, contributed in no small measure to the dissemination of these ideas. The word, “Vitamine”, served as a catchword which meant something even to the uninitiated, and it was not by mere accident that just at that time, research developed so markedly in this direction.”

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Year 2012
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DOI https://doi.org/10.52439/XOZV6598
DOI Number 10.52439/XOZV6598
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