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An Introduction To Non-aristotelian Systems And General Semantics.

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126          III. NON-ELEMENTAL1STIC STRUCTURES
Section B. Illustrations from nutrition experiments.
We find striking illustrations of the non-el principle in the study of 'vitamins'. A few years ago it was discovered that certain widely spread and pernicious diseases were due to deficiencies of some factors in diet. These factors, which normally are present in very minute amounts, were called 'vitamins' by the Polish biologist, Funk. The most important vitamin-deficiency diseases are called Rickets, Scurvy, Beri-Beri, and Pellagra. In all these cases, it is important to notice that the lack of a minute amount of some factor may have the most varied, pronounced, and seemingly unrelated consequences. The symptoms can now be produced deliberately on experimental animals, by diets free from the particular 'vitamins' and can also be cured at will by feeding them with the proper 'vitamins'.11
Rickets appears essentially as a disease of infancy or childhood. In mild cases, the disease may only be discovered after the death of the adult. In these cases, the lesions have not become pronounced enough during life to attract attention.
The diagnosis usually depends on manifestations in the bones, but rickets affects the whole organism and not merely the skeleton. The children are nervous and irritable, but apathetic. They sleep poorly and perspire excessively. The muscles become wasted and weak. Often a secondary anaemia occurs. The children sit, stand, and walk later than usual; the teeth appear later in life and decay sooner. The bones usually become much affected. Areas of softening appear in the long bones, which become bent. In more severe cases, the bones may even become fractured and the head of the bone may separate from the shaft. The general resistance of the children to other diseases is lowered and mortality increases.
Cod liver oil or sunshine usually effects a cure. We should notice the little word 'or', for quite different 'causes' produce similar 'effects' - an example illustrating that in life 'cause' and 'effect' do not correspond in a one-to-one relation, but in a many-to-one relation.
Experiments have shown that not less than three primary dietary factors are concerned with the development of skeletal tissue. These are phosphorus, calcium, and at least one organic compound which is known as antirachitic vitamin. The work of Professor E. V. McCollum and his co-workers seems to show an interesting point; namely, that the ratio between the concentrations of calcium and of phosphorus in the food may be more important than the absolute amounts of these substances.