Vitamin D was discovered by American researcher Elmer McCollum.
British doctor Edward Mellanby attempted to discover if vitamin deficiency was the cause of rickets by feeding laboratory dogs a diet that consisted of only oatmeal and keeping the dogs indoors (out of the sun). The dogs developed rickets. Mellanby then fed the dogs cod liver oil and cured the rickets. Mellanby wrongly concluded that a deficiency of vitamin A caused rickets.
American researcher McCollum, co-discoverer of Vitamin A, repeated the experiment, but fed the dogs cod liver oil that had been treated to destroy the vitamin A content. The modified cod liver oil still cured the dogs, so McCollum concluded that it was some new vitamin, which he called vitamin D.
Exposure to UV light causes mammals to produce vitamin D. Wisconsin researchers in the early 1900s discovered that exposing food to UV light will create a previtamin that the body converts to vitamin D. In 1924 bread and milk were irradiated with UV light throughout the U.S., a practice that continued until researchers discovered how to create vitamin D in the lab, leading to fortification of milk with synthetic vitamin D.
IMPORTANCE: Improves absorption and utilization of Calcium and Phosphorous; required for bone and teeth formation; maintains a stable nervous system and normal heart action.
DEFICIENCY SYMPTOMS: May lead to rickets, tooth decay, softening of bones, improper healing of fractures, lack of vigor, muscular weakness, inadequate absorption of calcium, retention of phosphorous in the kidneys.
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