Grijns Proposes That Beriberi Is Caused by a Nutritional Deficiency (Great Events from History II: Science and Technology Series)
Article abstract: Grijns’ proposal that beriberi was caused by a nutritional deficiency in a diet of polished rice led to the concept of vitamins.
Summary of Event
Beriberi is a disease caused by a deficiency of vitamin B1, thiamine, in the diet. The name of the disease is Sinhalese for “I cannot.” It resulted from the fact that people afflicted with severe beriberi are too sick to do even the simplest things. The disease was endemic to the Far East in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Its symptoms include stiffness of the lower limbs, paralysis and severe pain, gradual breakdown of the muscles, anemia, mental confusion, enlargement of the heart, and death resulting from heart failure.
In the 1990’s, the incidence of severe beriberi is much lower, found mostly in undernourished people in the rice-eating nations of Asia, Indonesia, and Africa. In industrialized nations, beriberi is seen most often in chronic alcoholics. They get the disease because their limited diets—which consist mostly of alcohol—are very deficient in vitamins. This deficiency includes insufficient amounts of thiamine. Very severe thiamine...
(The entire section is 2035 words.)
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