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If taking vitamins is part of your daily routine, you have biochemist  Casimir Funk to thank. He’s the brainiac behind the whole vitamin boom. 

Funk was a genius who made several contributions to the field of biochemistry and is known for his work on the nature of enzymes and vitamins, a term he coined when he referred to them as “vital amines.”

Casimir was born in Warsaw, Poland, in 1884. He studied chemistry and medicine at the University of Bern in Switzerland. After completing his studies, he worked in several research labs in Europe before moving to the United States in 1912.

During his time in the United States, Casimir Funk made significant contributions to science by studying beriberi, a disease common in Asia caused by a deficiency of essential nutrients. Funk discovered that the disease could be cured by consuming a substance found in rice husks. Later, this substance was identified as thiamine, one of the essential B vitamins. Funk also emphasized the importance of supplementing certain vitamins to prevent conditions like scurvy (caused by a vitamin C deficiency) and rickets (caused by a lack of vitamin D).

Ultimately, through his research, Funk identified the existence of vitamins B1, B2 (riboflavin), B3 (niacin), C, and D, all of which are crucial for good health. 

In his later research, Funk studied animal hormones and contributed to the knowledge about hormones of the pituitary and sex glands, emphasizing the importance of balance between hormones and vitamins.

His family described him as a “driven and curious child” who pursued his education with passion despite facing obstacles as a Jewish student in Europe during a time of rising anti-Semitism. He earned his doctorate at the University of Bern in Switzerland when he was only twenty. Throughout his career as a biochemist, he worked at several hospitals and institutions, including the University of Berlin and the Pasteur Institute in Paris.

Dr. Funk passed away in Albany, NY, in 1967, but his health and science contributions continue to impact our daily lives. It was his groundbreaking work that laid the foundation for modern nutritional science, and made the efforts of people like Dr. Joe DiMatteo possible.

Thank you, Dr. Funk!