Have you ever wondered how vitamins got their names? Why is vitamin A “A”? Does that mean it is the primary vitamin your body needs? Why is Vitamin B second? And what on earth is vitamin B12 then, if there is already a vitamin B? Is it simply an offshoot of vitamin B, or its very own vitamin? Nevertheless, if you have watched television, read magazines or had your late night television viewing interrupted by infomercials anytime in the last few decades, then even if you don’t know the specifics of all the vitamins and minerals needed in your body, you likely do know that minerals are important.
For scientists, vitamin A is known as a retinyl. These retinoids are a family of molecules that are found in the form of esters such as retinyl palmitate, a substance which is converted to alcohol, or, as it is known in the scientific world, retinol, in the small intestine. To the layman, vitamin A is a vitamin that is important for humans when it comes to their vision and bone growth. Vitamin A is available in animal food sources and consists of a yellow, fat-soluble substance. While it is the alcohol form of vitamin A that is useful to the human body, do not confuse alcohol vitamin A with a shot of liquor. Think more along the lines of the rubbing alcohol you use for disinfectant or the acetytl alcohol that, if you are a lady, you use to remove your finger and toe nail polish. While vitamin A is important to the human body, it is also used in medicines.
So is vitamin A really the primary vitamin? Is it labeled “A” because it was discovered first before all other vitamins? According to historic sources, vitamin A was probably discovered due to research that took place in the year 1906. This research was looking into what factors kept domestic animals – namely cattle – healthy, and concluded that carbohydrates, proteins and fats were necessary for this purpose. If you will think back to the social history of the time, where automobiles were new fangled contraptions, you will see why science thought it important to explore and discover ways to keep animals bigger, stronger and healthier.
As for the history of vitamin A, not much was thought about this important little substance until 1917 when two scientists, one at the University of Wisconsin and one at Yale University each independently discovered it. And, as it turns out, vitamin A was actually discovered after vitamin B. Because vitamin B was known as “water-soluble factor B” the scientists naturally decided to name the new discovery “fat-soluble factor A.” If there are records of why scientists decided on this naming scheme for vitamin A, they were probably never transcribed.
The next great leap in the history of vitamin A came in 1947 when two Dutch scientists managed to synthesize it.
As with all vitamins and minerals, scientists and nutritionists recommend that men, women and children all take in a mandatory amount of vitamin D per day. The recommended daily allowance for vitamin A for infants is 400 to 500 micrograms per day. For children, it is a mere 300 to 400 micrograms per day. For adolescent males, the recommended daily allowance of vitamin A is about 900 micrograms while women of the same age are recommended to take about 700 micrograms. The same is true for most adults, except for pregnant women. The recommended daily allowance of Vitamin A for pregnant females is 1200 to 1300 micrograms. Pregnant women and those in high risk groups should also contact a primary care physician before adding large doses of vitamin A or making any other dietary or supplement changes.
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