The missing vitamin alphabet

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Aim: The aims of this paper were to catalogue a complete list of all the alphabetical names for vitamins that have appeared in the scientific literature, provide the citations of their first use and seek explanations for any apparent gaps in the naming system. Methods: The names of known vitamins and pseudo-vitamins were identified from standard nutrition textbooks, historical monographs and several review articles. If the first citation for the alphabetical vitamin name was not found in these sources, additional searches were conducted in the Scopus and Medline databases, in Google and Google Scholar, using the names of vitamins as search terms. Results: Sixty-seven different alphabet-based vitamin names were tabulated, including where possible the scientific and alternative names, a description of the source substance, physiological roles and the first citation of the alphabetical name. The results show that all the letters of the alphabet have been used to describe putative vitamin compounds. The simple alphabetical naming system proposed by Drummond in 1920 lasted for less than a decade. A number of other systems have been used based on the name of the discoverer, the source of the material or its physiological function. Conclusions: Using simplified alphabetical names may assist in nutrition communication and education of the general public, but dietitians need to be careful to maintain a clear understanding of the proper biochemical distinctions and nomenclatures of the known vitamins, especially when writing for academic publication.




Williams, P. (2016). The missing vitamin alphabet. Nutrition and Dietetics, 73(2), 205–214.

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