Vitamin B1

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In 1884, Takaki Kanehiro (1849–1920), a surgeon general in the Japanese navy, rejected the previous germ theory for beriberi and hypothesized that the disease was due to insufficiencies in the diet instead. Switching diets on a navy ship, he discovered that replacing a diet of white rice only with one also containing barley, meat, milk, bread, and vegetables, nearly eliminated beriberi on a nine-month sea voyage. However, Takaki had added many foods to the successful diet and he incorrectly attributed the benefit to increased nitrogen intake, as vitamins were unknown substances at the time. The Navy was not convinced of the need for so expensive a program of dietary improvement, and many men continued to die of beriberi, even during the Russo-Japanese war of 1904–5. Not until 1905, after the anti-beriberi factor had been discovered in rice bran (removed by polishing into white rice) and in barley bran, was Takaki's experiment rewarded by making him a baron in the Japanese peerage system, after which he was affectionately called "Barley Baron".