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How Humans Learned About Vitamin B Complex

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Most of us know that vitamin B complex is purportedly useful for the body. Vitamins and vital minerals are identified as such because they have been intensely studied. Today, we have a very good idea about some of these nutrients’ most important work for humans, with the potential for even more discoveries as research continues. But how were the B vitamins discovered anyway? And what problems were physicians trying to solve when they began prescribing them?

The Discovery of Vitamin B Complex

It can be hard to believe that scientists didn’t know about germs until about the time of the American Civil War. Until then, doctors had many notions about what caused diseases. When we could finally understand and observe microscopic germs, germ theory started to explain the origin of many diseases – an incredible revelation in medical history.

But germs weren’t at the root of all maladies. In the early 20th century, researchers began to realize that illness wasn’t always the result of something present (germs), but that it could be from something absent. This is when the concept of nutrient deficiencies started to be understood and applied to many different bodily difficulties.

Around this time, researchers at Johns Hopkins in the United States and independent scientists around the world published works that identified thiamine (Vitamin B1) as a nutrient necessary for human wellness. Thiamine was the very first vitamin named, even before more well known nutrients like Vitamin C.

Gradually other vitamins were discovered and named. Many of these vitamins were found to be water soluble. These were grouped together as members of vitamin B complex. It’s important to understand that these nutrients have completely different roles in the body. Their solubility factor is important as a reference for how the diverse complex nutrients could be absorbed within the body, as well as supplemented through various mediums.

Vitamin B Complex as a Supplement

As soon as research started to be published about the B vitamins, large pharmaceutical companies started to manufacture and market them as supplements. This was another remarkable innovation. The B vitamins occur naturally in food, but quality fresh food was (and is) not always available to everyone in the United States and abroad.

Supplements represented a safe, shelf-stable, affordable, transportable method for getting people the nutrition they needed, with or without their having regular access to green vegetables and healthy animal products.

Today, quality food access for the average citizen is much improved over the situation present during the Industrial Revolution. However, this is not the case for all. What’s more, even among people who are able to find natural vitamin B sources, the average diet does not always include enough vitamin B to reach daily recommended doses. Supplemental sources of the B vitamins come in handy in these cases, potentially reversing conditions associated with malnutrition for many thousands of people.

If you feel that a vitamin B supplement is right for you, you have many options to choose from. Nutrient deficiencies are testable, so if you find that you need one specific vitamin, single-nutrient supplements like Thiamine (B1) are available. If you want the make sure that you get all of your B vitamins every day, there are many B complex supplements on the market. You can even go one step further by taking a multivitamin, which will have your daily portion of B vitamins as well as healthy boosts for all of the other necessary nutrients.

We sometimes forget that it’s amazing to live in a time when we can get crucial elements of our nutritional requirements in a tiny pill, taken daily. As a means of supplementing an otherwise healthy diet, B vitamin supplements are something everyone should seriously consider.  

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