What’s in a Name?
William J. Whelan
Miller School of Medicine, University of Miami, Miami Florida, USA
My attention was recently caught by a headline announcing
that the European Commission had imposed a 66 million euro
ﬁne on an animal feed vitamin cartel, the vitamin in question
being vitamin B4. I was curious about what is vitamin B4 and
learned that although it is seldom given this name, even in
three tomes devoted to nutrition, the general consensus is that
vitamin B4 is choline. We can synthesize it but we also rely on
supplementation through the diet. Whether choline should be
termed a vitamin is a digression into which I shall not enter.
This led me to search for vitamin B4 on the web, where I
found that many dietary supplement vendors include B4 in
their products and identify it as choline.
But I also came across several other websites where the
vendors think that vitamin B4 is something else.
Why not search for yourself? You will ﬁnd vitamin B4
deﬁned as adenine, folic acid, and pantothenic acid, while at
the Onestophairshop, vitamin B4 is pyridoxine. The same
website names vitamin B12 as ‘‘cyanscohaenia’’. Other
ingredients for hair care being sold on this site include inosital
(sic) and para-aminobeteic acid, for PABA.
Another website authored by a Dr. Bruce West describes
vitamin B4 as ‘‘the anti-paralysis’’ vitamin, claiming that a
supply is vital to counter heart disease. Just what is vitamin B4
according to Dr. West? Deﬁnitely none of the above.
Although he is willing to sell you vitamin B4, never does he
reveal what it is. Indeed he creates an air of mystery about it
by describing B4 as a ‘‘little studied, never synthesized
Three websites state that B4 is adenine and in
www.chiro.org/chiro-list/newsﬁle/vit-hist.txt Harvey Newstrom
goes on to say that adenine is a nucleic acid. But then he deﬁnes
vitamin B8 as ‘‘the nucleic acid adenylic acid, also known
as ergadenylic acid’’. William Kyle (www.albhealth.co.uk/
services/info/suplements/vitamin_b-4_1.php) states that
‘‘complex carbohydrates provide the best fuel and it is my
belief that most complex carbohydrates contain vitamin B-4
(Adenine).’’ Adenine is a vitamin? A nucleic acid?
The Every Vitamin Page (db.ancient-future.net/
vitamins.html) also lists B4 as adenine as part of a
comprehensive list of vitamins from A to Y, with a big
subdivision for B. Harvey Newstrom also has a long list,
although whether, in light of his belief in what constitutes a
nucleic acid, his remarks can be regarded as enlightening, as
opposed to amusing, is open to question.
But neither of these comprehensive vitamin listings men-
tions vitamin O.
What is vitamin O? Try typing that into your search engine.
Mine came up with 987,192 results.
There is a mine of useless information out there, of which
until now I had been largely unaware.
Received/accepted 21 January 2005
Address correspondence to: William J. Whelan, Miller School of
Medicine, University of Miami, PO Box 016129 (M823), Miami,
FL 33101: E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
, 57(2): 125, February 2005
ISSN 1521-6543 print/ISSN 1521-6551 online # 2005 IUBMB