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Vitamins are a class of essential nutrients that cannot be synthesized (either at all or in sufficient quantities) by a given organism and must be taken (in trace quantities) with food for that organism's continued good health. Humans require 13 different vitamins. The term vitamin is not used for other classes of essential nutrients including dietary minerals, essential fatty acids or essential amino acids.

The name was coined by the Polish biochemist Kazimierz Funk in 1912. Vita in Latin is life and the -amin suffix is short for amine; at the time it was thought that all vitamins were amines. Though this is now known to be incorrect, the name has stuck.

Table of contents
1 Introduction
2 Vitamin deficiency diseases
3 Is vitamin D a real vitamin?
4 Vitamins A and K
5 Names
6 Whatever Happened to Vitamin F?
7 What is Vitamin S?
8 What is Vitamin V?
9 Vitamins T and U
10 New vitamin discovery
11 Non-human vitamins
12 See also
13 External links


Vitamins were first recognised by the diseases that occur from a lack of certain foods; for example, the British Royal Navy's observation that limes were effective in preventing scurvy led to the discovery of vitamin C.

Vitamins can be divided in two groups by their solubility in water:

Water-soluble vitamins

Fat-soluble vitamins Fat-soluble vitamins may be stored in the body and can cause toxicity when taken in excess. Water-soluble vitamins are not stored in the body. Unlike food, water, and—for aerobic organisms—air, an organism can survive for some time without vitamins, although prolonged vitamin deficit results in a disease state.

Vitamin deficiency diseases

Several diseases are caused by a lack of adequate vitamin intake. These can become severe, even life-threatening.

Some vitamin deficiency diseases include:

Deficient vitaminDisease
B12pernicious anaemia

Other vitamin deficiencies are simply called after the name of the vitamin, such as vitamin K deficiency disease.

Is vitamin D a real vitamin?

Vitamin D is synthesized by the human body, but not always in sufficient quantities. The level of synthesis depends on exposure to sunlight, so in winter and in polar areas there is a greater need to take it, whereas in summer and in equatorial areas it is less necessary. It is generally considered a vitamin, but one that isn't required in some areas and seasons.

Vitamins A and K

Neither vitamin A nor vitamin K is a single chemical substance, but all derivatives fulfill the same functions in organisms (or are converted into the active form by the organism), so taking just one of the derivatives is sufficient for good health. The derivatives differ in chemical structure and level of activity.


Some vitamin names have become obsolete:

The usage of names in the format "vitamin letter" and "vitamin letter number" is diminishing. This is especially true for vitamins H, M, B1, B2, B3, and B5, which are usually called by their proper chemical names.

On the other hand, vitamins D and E are still usually called by their symbolic names, and A and K don't even have proper chemical names (since they are mixtures of chemicals).

The names ascorbic acid and vitamin C are used with similar frequency.

Whatever Happened to Vitamin F?

Vitamin F was the designation originally given to essential fatty acids that the body cannot manufacture. They were "de-vitaminized" because they are fatty acids. Fatty acids are a major component of fats.

What is Vitamin S?

Although there was not originally a Vitamin S, the suggestion has been half-seriously made that salicylic acid may qualify for the criteria needed to be defined as a vitamin, and that in this case the designation "Vitamin S" could be used to describe it. Vitamin B11 was also called Vitamin S for a while in the 1970s.

What is Vitamin V?

Vitamin V is a name given to Viagra by pop culture, supposedly because of the number of people who take it like a vitamin.

Vitamins T and U

The following are not true vitamins but terms invented by marketeerss and naturopaths

New vitamin discovery

On April 24, 2003 a research team led by Takafumi Kato of the Japanese Institute of Physical and Chemical Research confirmed that pyrroloquinoline quinone (PQQ), a substance originally discovered in 1979, can be categorised as a vitamin.

Non-human vitamins

Different organisms need different trace organic substances. The list of vitamins in this article refers to humans. Most mammals need, with few exceptions, the same vitamins (except that most species don't need ascorbic acid in their diet as they synthesize their own). The further apart from mammals a species is, the more diverse the organisms' requirements become. For example, some bacteria need adenine. Pyrroloquinoline quinone (PQQ) was reported as a vitamin for mice in 2003.

See also

External links