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noun, plural: vitamins

A low molecular weight organic compound that is essential for normal growth and metabolic processes and is required in trace amounts


A vitamin is an organic compound that is essential for the normal growth and metabolic processes of an organism. The organism is not capable of synthesizing an adequate amount of such chemical compound and therefore must obtain it in its diet. Another important feature of an organic compound to be considered as a vitamin is to be required in only limited but adequate amount. The term vitamin was first used by Polish biochemist Kazimierz Funk. It came from vitamine, which in turn was derived from Latin vita, meaning life, and amine after the initial discovery of thiamine (formerly aberic acid) when it was thought that all vitamins are amines.1, 2

There are various types of vitamins. In humans, there are 13 vitamins essential for growth and metabolism. Four of them are fat-soluble, meaning they are soluble in fat or nonpolar solvents. The other nine vitamins are water-soluble since they readily dissolve in water.

Related term(s):

1 Iłowiecki, Maciej (1981). Dzieje nauki polskiej. Warszawa: Wydawnictwo Interpress. p. 177.
2 vitamin. Unabridged, v1.0.1, Lexico Publishing Group, 2006. Retrieved from [[1]]

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