This section is from the "Impaired Health: Its Cause And Cure" (Volume 1) book, by John H. Tilden. Also available from Amazon: Impaired health its cause and cure: A repudiation of the conventional treatment of disease
By isolating from these polishings a crystalline base which cured fowls that had developed a disease similar to beriberi after being fed a diet of polished rice, Dr. Funk was led to his discovery--one which yet may rank with Harvey, Pasteur, and Lister.
Subsequent experiments of like nature by other scientists proved the case beyond doubt. Now we know it is the absence of this vitamin from polished rice that causes beriberi. Just how the vitamin in the rice grain affects the human system; just what it does, or where are its fields of operation, we do not know.
That it must play a vital part in the maintenance of health is well evidenced by the fact that pigeons fed on polished rice until paralyzed with beriberi will revive almost instantly when the anti-beriberi vitamin is injected, and in a day's time be fluttering about as though they never had been ill.
"This almost miraculous transformation can be due only to the presence of the injected vitamin," said Dr. Goudiss; "and the minuteness of the quantities used supports the view that the vitamins are not foods in the usual sense of the term, but have some obscure connection with the production of internal secretions which are essential to assimilation."
He further says:
"No longer can we regard ourselves as properly fed because our meals show a scientifically correct balance of protein, carbohydrates, fats, and mineral matter; for without that evasive element which in some mysterious manner gives the word to the forces of the body to digest and assimilate these nutrients, we might as well eat sawdust. For a time, it is true, we may get on very well, for the body stores vitamins against the time of need; but these cannot last long, and without a constantly renewed supply, disease and death inevitably await us."
In addition to beriberi, recent investigations have led to the belief that other deficiency diseases are caused by lack of vitamins. Chief among these is pellagra, so alarmingly prevalent in many of our southern states and which, curiously, is found chiefly among those whose diet consists almost wholly of corn meal ground in the modern way, with the germ and hull of the grain removed.
In localities where the old-fashioned "whole-ground" corn meal is used, pellagra is almost unknown. This has led scientists to assume that the outer coat of the corn grain contains a vitamin which will prevent its development, even when corn is the sole article of diet. When used in a mixed diet, as is the case in most instances, the employment of whole-ground corn meal becomes a matter of secondary importance; for the needed vitamins will be supplied by other foods in the menu.
It also has been shown that a diet consisting solely of white wheat bread will produce a disease not unlike pellagra; and here again science is forced to conclude that in wheat, as in corn and rice, the vitamin inhabits the outer coat of the grain. It is not yet known where this vital substance secretes itself in fresh fruits and vegetables, but science is sure of its existence in nearly all such articles of food.
Thus far, the foods found rich in vitamins include raw milk, or milk just brought to a boil; the yolk of egg; meat juice and broths; fresh vegetables and vegetable soups; fresh or cooked fruits and their juices; whole grains, slightly broiled meats, and cod-liver oil.
Those apparently deficient in this element are sterilized, preserved, or cooked milk; white of egg; sterilized meat extracts; dried fruits and vegetables; highly milled grains; soup meat and preserved meats; and bread raised with soda without the addition of sour milk.
We have dwelt on the details of this subject because it concerns a matter no one can afford to ignore. However easy it once may have been for some persons to dismiss the subject of food as relatively unimportant, no such attitude is tenable today. And at present we face food conditions which demand not only the practice of strict economy, but application of every help science can offer.
This newspaper could not consistently omit its utmost in the dissemination of such knowledge. For during the last seven years, with the aid of Mrs. Scott, we have so emphasized the value of a varied diet, and one which includes fruits and green things, that we could not overlook such sanction of our course. In this connection, we wish to quote from a recent editorial from the "Journal of the American Medical Association":
"The discovery of the vitamin has emphasized the value of those elements of food which, although present in minute quantities, exercise a determining influence in the utilization of the ordinary articles of diet. As Garrod says: 'The immense practical importance of these hitherto unknown factors is in the fact that once the missing element -the vitamin-is discovered, a specific remedy for the disease has been found.'
"That the nutritive value of a diet does not depend wholly on its calorific value must be admitted. The importance of flavors, spices, and of the preparation of food so as to arouse the esthetic senses-in other words, the nutritive value of good cooking--has been pointed out by Sternberg, of Berlin, who insists that the science of cookery is not merely the application of chemistry and physics, but rather an application of the physiology of the senses, applied psychology and esthetics. The spices and flavors used by the cook, Sternberg suggests, may be closely allied to the vitamins, if not identical with them. They may stand in the same relation to loss of appetite and health in general that the specific vitamins do to particular diseases."