2NGGYHG Polish-born American biochemist Dr. Casimir Fink, who coined the term vitamin, is shown at work in his new research laboratory on W. 64th Street in New York City on January 12, 1953.  (AP Photo)

Casimir Fink in his laboratory in 1954

Associated Press/Global

Casimir Fink, Polish biochemist who coined the term “vitamins” for organisms A class of molecules What keeps us alive is the subject of today’s Google Doodle.

There have been theories about how food affects health for thousands of years. In ancient Greece and Rome, Early Doctors invented the “Humor” theory, which stated that food should have the right balance of wet, dry, hot and cold to control the body’s four essential humours – fire, earth, blood and phlegm. Much later, doctors made more distinct associations, such as the observation that consumption of citrus fruits such as lemons helped prevent the disease. The disease scurvy Among sailors on long voyages.

In the late 19th century, scientists were trying to find the cause of the disease beriberi, which can affect a person’s nervous or cardiovascular systems and is known today as vitamin B1 deficiency. In 1897, Christian Eijkman published a study based on experiments with chickens, suggesting that a diet containing brown rice was more protective against beriberi than a diet containing only white rice.

Casimir Funk read Eijkman’s paper and set himself the task of finding the chemical compound that gave brown rice its protective properties. In 1912, Fink was able to isolate a chemical that he thought was responsible and found that it contained a special compound of nitrogen called an amine, so he named it an important amine, or vitamin. When scientists finally realized that vitamins didn’t need to have an amine group, they dropped the final “e.”

Fink suggested that similar compounds might exist for many other “deficiency diseases,” as he called them, writing: “We would talk about a beriberi and scurvy vitamin, which Means a substance that prevents this particular disease.” Fink also correctly suggested that there are vitamins that prevent pellagra and rickets.

The compound that Fink isolated and named the “anti-beriberi factor” is what we now call vitamin B3, or niacin, which does not actually prevent beriberi. Two years ago, Japanese scientist Amitaro Suzuki isolated vitamin B1 from brown rice and pinpointed its role in preventing beriberi. However, his work was published in a Japanese journal and the first Western translation into German failed to note that this was a new discovery.

In the 35 years since Funk’s initial discovery, scientists have discovered the remaining vitamins, totaling 13, including eight types of B vitamins and vitamins A, C, D, E and K. Fink continued to work with vitamins, and for pharmaceuticals. companies, for the rest of his career. He developed the first widely used vitamin concentrate in America, called OSCODAL, containing liquid vitamins A and D.

Although vitamins are recognized as helping to prevent certain diseases, their use is as supplements. Still debated by scientists. Oh A recent meta-analysis There is no good evidence that supplements and vitamins protect most people from cancer or heart disease.