State the problem or
What is Beriberi?
The word beriberi
is from a
"I cannot, I
What Did Eijkman Know About
Eijkman had seen many victims of beriberi while
working for the army in the Dutch East Indies.
The disease started with signs of weakness,
fatigue, irritability, restlessness, loss of appetite
and vague abdominal discomfort. As it
progressed, patients developed burning
sensations, tingling in the extremities, and
changes in the sensation such as numbness.
Many of the sufferers died of heart failure.
Autopsies showed that the nerve fibers and heart
muscles had degenerated. In Asia beriberi had
been a known disease for a few thousand years.
Suddenly, after the 1870s, it became one of the
most common diseases in the region.
Dutch East Indies
Research and gather information on
Dr. Eijkman gathered data about
chickens with Beriberi and data on
chickens without Beriberi.
Make an educated guess based on
your research, then write it in an IF,
If healthy chickens were injected with
bacteria from the blood of patients
with Beriberi, then the chickens will
conduct experiment, observe, &
1. They injected healthy chickens with
bacteria from the blood of patients
2. They observed the patients that
3. They recorded data from the
patients that were injected.
Was the hypothesis accepted or rejected,
include date in your in your answer.
There hypothesis was rejected because the
experimental group and the control group
both contracted Beriberi.
Eijkman's Trials; Monkeys,
Chickens and Prisoners
During the first years of Eijkman's work at the institute in Java, two of his colleagues managed to
extract micro-organisms from people who had died from beriberi. When they returned to Europe
they left Eijkman behind as the institute's director.
Eijkman tried to infect rabbits and monkeys with the micro-organisms. However, the animals didn't
get sick. Eijkman concluded that beriberi must be a disease which took a long time to develop.
To wait a very long time, until the rabbits or monkeys showed signs of beriberi, wouldn't work.
Chances that the animals got other diseases in the meantime were too great, and it would only
be possible to draw conclusions if he had a very large number of animals to work on. He needed
animals which developed the disease more quickly. It would also be good if they were cheap and
easy to maintain.
Eijkman bought chickens and housed them in large cages in the shadow under the institute's
extended roof. After less than a month, all chickens got sick. Eijkman thought that the chickens
which he had injected with micro-organisms had infected the ones without injections. He bought
new chickens and kept them, one by one, in smaller cages. But these chickens also got sick.
Eijkman realized that the whole institute must be infected and decided to keep new chickens at
another location. But as he did this, all the chickens got well. Eijkman couldn't understand what
was happening. He hadn't done anything to cure them!
The man who fed the chickens told Eijkman that he had given them cooked white rice during the
period they got sick. It was leftover rice from the next-door hospital. Later, a new cook there
didn't want to give him left over rice and he had gone back to feeding them with unpolished
uncooked rice. It was after this that the chickens had recovered.
When Eijkman understood that the disease had something to do with the diet, he decided to make
trials. He did something like this... … Brown rice has its outer husk removed.
White rice is polished further to remove the thin skin and the germ. Since the germ is ground off
from the white rice grains, they have a slightly pointed appearance.
After five weeks, it was clear to Eijkman that the diet did indeed cause the disease. He gave all the
chickens unpolished uncooked rice, and the four sick chickens got well again.
Eijkman's Trials; Monkeys, Chickens and Prisoners
Eijkman repeated the experiment just to be sure and concluded that the
important difference was that only one kind of rice had been cooked. It must
therefore be that cooked rice helped an unknown microorganism to develop
into a poison in the intestines of the chickens.
Or, perhaps, it was only cooked rice which had been stored for a few days that
became poisonous in this way? He tested this, but no, even the chickens fed
with freshly cooked rice became ill.
Or, could it be that the chickens couldn't absorb the nutrients from cooked rice?
Or, could it be that the water they had boiled the white rice in was toxic?
Trials showed that the answer to all these questions was "no." Neither was raw
white rice less toxic than boiled. One thing that became clear was that, what
mattered was if the rice had been polished or not. Only the chickens fed with
polished rice developed the disease. If the chickens were fed polished rice,
plus the skin which had been removed, they didn't get sick. For a change,
Eijkman fed the chickens with raw meat, and the chickens stayed well.
Eijkman's conclusion was that starch had some toxic effect on the chickens.
He thought that the skin, which had been removed from the white rice,
contained a substance that made the poisonous rice innocuous. Eijkman called
this the anti-beriberi factor.
Eijkman described the trials in a report. He also wrote about them in Dutch
scientific journals, so that other scientists could learn from them.
In 1895, after nine years of research with animals, Eijkman wanted to find out if
humans could avoid getting beriberi by eating unpolished rice. He asked a
doctor named A. G. Vorderman to carry out investigations in the prisons. The
reason why he decided to do this in the prisons was that it was easy to control
what people ate, and that the same persons stayed there for a long time. It
soon showed that prisoners who were fed polished rice were a lot more likely
to get beriberi.
Before the trials in the prisons were completed, Eijkman returned to the
Netherlands. Vorderman and other physicians continued their research.
Share and communicate your ideas
Dr. Eijkman can sell his ideas to
Christiaan Eijkman (August 11, 1858,
Nijkerk – November 5, 1930,
Utrecht) was a Dutch physician and
pathologist whose demonstration
that beriberi is caused by poor diet
led to the discovery of vitamins.
Together with Sir Frederick Hopkins,
he received the Nobel Prize for
Physiology or Medicine.
Although Eijkman had been sent to
Indonesia to study Beriberi, the
discovery of the cause was
accidental. He noticed the symptoms
in some chickens used in his
laboratory when their feed had been
altered temporarily. Eijkman was
unable to continue his research due
to ill health, but a study by his friend
Adolphe Vorderman confirmed the
link between polished rice and the
disease. Eventually it was
determined the missing compound
that was causing Beriberi was
vitamin B1, thiamine.
Why Was Beriberi Such a
People found the polished rice from the new milling machines
superior in taste, and they chose it over brown rice even if it was
It was in the 1870s that thiamin deficiency became a common
disease in many parts of Southeast Asia. In some towns, as many
as half of the babies died from it. Europeans had taken steam
driven mills to Asia, and the new rice-processing machines
completely polished the grains. This rice was considered to be of
superior taste and quality, and was eaten by most people in Asia.
But, since the polishing had been removed, so had the B1
vitamins. For people who ate mostly rice, beriberi was a sure fate.
Today, beriberi is no longer a common disease. Since the 1940s,
food items such as rice, white flour, pasta and cereals are often
enriched with Vitamin B1. The practice of eating varied foods and
the enrichment of processed foods with vitamins, have helped
save the lives of millions.
Even if people hadn't heard of vitamins before
the 20th century, many understood that it
was important to eat varied food. And most
people did. Problems with malnutrition
usually occurred when people were on long
journeys at sea, working for the army or
imprisoned. In Japan a doctor in the navy,
Takaki, understood that beriberi could be
avoided if the men ate less rice and more
vegetables, barley, fish and meat. When he
showed how successful this method was, it
was made into a naval regulation in Japan.
Eijkman had probably not heard about this,
even if it happened at the same time as he
was on his way to Java.
In Asia where polished white rice was the common staple food of
the middle class, beriberi resulting from lack of vitamin B was
endemic. In 1884, Takaki Kanehiro, a British-trained Japanese
medical doctor of the Japanese Navy observed that beriberi was
endemic among low ranking crew who often ate nothing but rice
but not among crews of Western navies and officers who were
entitled to a Western-style diet. Kanehiro initially believed that
lack of protein was the chief cause of beriberi. With the support
of Japanese navy, he experimented using crews of two
battleships, one crew was fed only white rice, while the other
was fed a diet of meat, fish, barley, rice, and beans. The group
that ate only white rice documented 161 crew with beriberi and
25 deaths, while the latter group had only 14 cases of beriberi
and no deaths. This convinced Kanehiro and the Japanese Navy
that diet was the cause of beriberi. This was confirmed in 1897,
when Christiaan Eijkman discovered that feeding unpolished rice
instead of the polished variety to chickens helped to prevent
beriberi in the chickens. The following year, Frederick Hopkins
postulated that some foods contained "accessory factors"—in
addition to proteins, carbohydrates, fats, etcetera—that were
necessary for the functions of the human body.
Christiaan Eijkman, a Dutch physician and pathologist,
demonstrated that beriberi is caused by poor diet. His work led
to the discovery of vitamins. Together with Sir Frederick
Hopkins, he was awarded the 1929 Nobel Prize for Physiology or
Medicine for the discovery.
The 1929 Nobel Prize in
Physiology or Medicine
Christiaan Eijkman was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or
Medicine in 1929. Due to bad health, he couldn't come to Sweden
to receive the Prize. He died a year later.
In 1929, Eijkman shared the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine
with Frederick Hopkins.
One may wonder why Eijkman was awarded the Prize for the
discovery of vitamin B1 even if he himself didn't discover it.
Eijkman was actually awarded the Prize because he was the first
to point out a substance in the rice skin - a substance not to be
known as the anti-beriberi factor as Eijkman called it, but what
later was to be known as vitamin B1. He was also awarded the
Prize for his new way of investigating and his methods to control
diseases caused by vitamin deficiency. His trials had become
famous, and in the late 1920s it was obvious that his work had
spurred developments in nutrition research.
Vitamin B1 Funk
Because it is water soluble, B1 is not stored in the body and must be
supplied daily. Chickpeas, beans, lentils, brown rice, lean pork and peas
are all good sources of vitamin B1.
In the 1800s, it was known that people needed proteins, carbohydrates,
fat and salt to stay healthy. No one had heard of vitamins.
One of the first to find out that food contains other things that people
need was Gerrit Grinjs, who now took Eijkman's place at the institute and
did more research. He understood that white rice wasn't toxic, but that it
lacked something vital.
In 1906, the British biochemist Frederick Hopkins demonstrated that food
contains necessary "accessory factors" in addition to proteins,
carbohydrates, fats, salts and water.
In 1912, the chemist Casimir Funk thought that he had found the vital
substance Eijkman called the anti-beriberi factor. Funk gave it the name
Vitamine. (He coined the word by combining "vital" and "amine.") This
name later came to denote all vitamins, even if the "e" soon was dropped.
However, Funk hadn't found the right substance. Not until 1926 was the
vitamin, which was to be named Thiamin or B1, isolated in its pure form.
Its structure was fully elucidated and the vitamin synthesized in 1936.
World's Healthiest Foods ranked as quality sources of:
Vitamin B1 (thiamin) Foods Rating
Romaine lettuce 2 cup very good Turnip greens, cooked 1 cup good
Asparagus, boiled1 cup very good Broccoli, steamed1 cup good
Crimini mushrooms, raw5 oz-very Green beans, boiled1 cup good
good Corn, yellow, cooked1 cup good
Spinach, boiled1 cup4 very good
Kale, boiled1 cup good
Sunflower seeds, raw0.25 cup very
good Black beans, cooked1 cup good
Tuna, yellowfin, baked/broiled4 oz- Pineapple 1 cup good
very good Oats, whole grain, cooked 1 cup
Celery, raw1 cup good good
Green peas, boiled1 cup very good Oranges 1 each good
Tomato, ripe1 cup very good Cauliflower, boiled1 cup good
Eggplant, cooked, cubes1 cup2 very
good Swiss chard, boiled1 cup good
Mustard greens, boiled1 cup good Collard greens, boiled 1 cup good
Brussel sprouts, boiled1 cup very good Split peas, cooked1 cup good
Cabbage, shredded, boiled1 cup good Lentils, cooked1 cup good
Watermelon, diced1 cup good Navy beans, cooked1 cup good
Bell peppers, red, raw, slices 1 cup Garlic 1 oz-wt good
Carrots, raw1 cup good Lima beans, cooked 1 cup good
Summer squash, cooked, slices 1 cup Pinto beans, cooked1 cup good
good Sesame seeds 0.25 cup good
Winter squash, baked, cubes1 cup Grapes 1 cup good
Kidney beans, cooked 1 cup good