Vitamins Come from Living Things

Every vitamin is made by living cells — either our own, or in other species. Vitamin D is produced in our skin, for example, when sunlight strikes a precursor of cholesterol. A lemon tree makes vitamin C out of glucose. Making a vitamin is often an enormously baroque process. In some species, it takes 22 different proteins to craft a vitamin B12 molecule.

While a protein may be made up of thousands of atoms, a vitamin may be made up of just a few dozen. And yet, despite their small size, vitamins expand our chemical versatility. A vitamin cooperates with proteins to help them carry out reactions they couldn’t manage on their own. Vitamin B1, for example, helps proteins pull carbon dioxide from molecules.

Vitamins carry out these chemical reactions not just in our own bodies but in all living things. “If you talk about bacteria, fungi, plants, humans — everybody needs them,” said Harold B. White III, a biochemist at the University of Delaware.

This universal chemistry is likely the result of evolution. Scientists generally agree that life on earth today evolved from a chemically simpler form perhaps four billion years ago. Those primordial organisms relied on a single-stranded variant of DNA, called RNA. Back then, RNA did double duty, carrying genes, the way DNA does today, and catalyzing chemical reactions, as proteins do now.


They are part of our universal chemistry from our common origins.

Folksonomies: evolution biology vitamins

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 Vitamins’ Old, Old Edge
Electronic/World Wide Web>Internet Article:  Zimmer, Carl (December 9, 2013), Vitamins’ Old, Old Edge, New York Times, Retrieved on 2013-12-10
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  • Folksonomies: biology vitamins


    12 JUN 2011

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