Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Rickets Makes a Comeback

A NYTimes article out yesterday reports cases of rickets showing up in infants and toddlers recently. While rickets is a common childhood disease in many developing countries [1], in the US it is not often heard of.

Rickets is defined as a softening of the bones in adolescence. This can lead to fractures and deformities such as bow-legs and wrist widening. However it is easily preventable with proper nutrition- specifically vitamin D.

And here enters the recent problem- doctors are suggesting that infants aren't getting enough vitamin D, even with proper diet. Dr. Catherine M. Gordon, director of the bone health program at Children’s Hospital Boston, says

"I completely support breast-feeding, and I think breast milk is the perfect food, and the healthiest way to nourish an infant... However, we’re finding so many mothers are vitamin D deficient themselves that the milk is therefore deficient, so many babies can’t keep their levels up. They may start their lives vitamin D deficient, and then all they’re getting is vitamin D deficient breast milk."

Dr. Frank Greer, chairman of the committee on nutrition of the American Academy of Pediatrics, adds that, “Historically speaking, we probably got it from the sun, but now we’re afraid of the sun and we don’t go out as much.”

While rickets is still rare in the US, the number of cases has been cropping up in recent years. Talk to your pediatrician about possibly adding supplements over the wintertime when sun exposure is down and make sure when breast feeding that you are getting adequate amounts of vitamin D yourself.

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