DSM marks the 100th anniversary of the discovery of vitamins

DSM marks the 100th anniversary of the discovery of vitamins

In 1912, a scientist named Casimir Funk coined the term “vitamins” to describe bioactive substances essential for human and animal health. In the years that followed, a series of scientific breakthroughs were made that identified 13 vitamins and explored many of their functions in the body.

The last century has witnessed remarkable discoveries and research that have advanced understanding of vitamins and their vital role in health and wellness.

In 1912, the Polish biochemist Casimir Funk isolated the first vitamin (B1) from rice bran. At that time, European rice hulling machines were brought to Asia to process rice. However, the hulling process stripped the rice of its vital nutritional elements. As a consequence, new health problems began emerging among the people and animals who relied upon rice as a staple food. Symptoms included weakness, fatigue, and as the condition progressed, apathia, polyneuropathy, paralysis, cardiomyopathy and heart failure. This dietary deficiency disease is now known as beriberi.  Funk realized that a compound inside of the rice bran that had been removed in the hulling process could in fact cure patients. He gave the substance he discovered the name “vitamine” — a combination of “vita” (Latin for “life”) and “amine” (= nitrogen compound).

For 100 years the word “vitamin” has been an umbrella term for a group of essential, organic micronutrients that play a range of vital roles in our bodies. The majority of vitamins cannot be directly produced by the body and must therefore be obtained through dietary means (exceptions: niacin and vitamin D). If vitamin intakes are insufficient, it can result in serious health problems. Despite extensive knowledge now available on the crucial role of vitamins in the body, vitamin inadequacies are not yet merely the topic of history books: even today, billions of people do not have sufficient intakes of essential micronutrients compared to recommendations.

In many developing countries, people do not have access to vitamin-rich foods, which leads to high mortality rates and serious health problems. However, even closer to home, in the world of abundant and modern lifestyles, inadequate vitamin intakes are also surprisingly common. DSM works in partnership with other organizations, such as the World Food Programme (WFP) and the International Osteoporosis Foundation (IOF), to help close up the gaps in essential micronutrient intakes and promote the essential role of micronutrients in promoting health.

Vitamins are also vital for animal nutrition and health. A diet rich in vitamins and essential micronutrients is vital for animal production and ensures that animals remain healthy throughout their lifecycle, which is central to the sustainability and efficiency of the food chain as well as to the welfare of the animals themselves. In a world facing growing global demand for animal protein, DSM works with leading institutions worldwide researching and developing optimum animal nutrition, and it delivers essential vitamin premix solutions to its customers to support the increasing demand for animal protein, as well as to benefit the health and sustainability of the food chain as a whole.

Dr Manfred Eggersdorfer, Senior Vice-President Nutrition Science & Advocacy at DSM commented:

“At DSM, we are proud to have been part of the vitamin journey for human nutrition and health, animal nutrition and health, and personal care, and we are committed to further scientific advancements in these fields for generations to come.”

100 years of vitamins for a brighter world

In 1912, the world first learned about ‘vitamins’, a term coined by Casimir Funk to describe bioactive substances essential for human and animal health. The past century has witnessed remarkable discoveries that have advanced our understanding of vitamins and their vital role in health and wellness. DSM, the global leader in vitamins, is proud to have been part of this vitamin journey and is committed to making further scientific advances for generations to come.

DSM – Bright Science. Brighter Living. ™

Royal DSM N.V. is a global science-based company active in health, nutrition and materials. By connecting its unique competences in Life Sciences and Materials Sciences DSM is driving economic prosperity, environmental progress and social advances to create sustainable value for all stakeholders. DSM delivers innovative solutions that nourish, protect and improve performance in global markets such as food and dietary supplements, personal care, feed, pharmaceuticals, medical devices, automotive, paints, electrical and electronics, life protection, alternative energy and bio-based materials. DSM’s 22,000 employees deliver annual net sales of about € 9 billion. The company is listed on NYSE Euronext. More information can be found at www.dsm.com.

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