A: Well Chris, this one turned out to be easier than I expected. It seems that when folks were naming vitamins, it was originally understood that Vitamin B was a single chemical compound. A gentleman by the name of Robert R. Williams (an arm-chair vitamin researcher, it turns out) first isolated the chemical compound and structure of what we now know as thiamine. This, as I understand it, was the original “Vitamin B” and is still known today as Vitamin B1.
Later of course, scientists determined that what they called “Vitamin B” was actually a complex of several compounds, not all of which coexist in a food at the same time. Each of these sub compounds of the complex is responsible for aiding different metabolic functions in our bodies, and were named likely in order of discovery. Now we have such familiar (from cereal boxes, at least) compound names as Riboflavin (B2) and Folic Acid, or Folate (B9).
So there it is…the answer to Ask Dan’s glorious (maybe?) return.
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