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Rickets Is Back!

I noticed an alarming story over in the Daily Mail today about children developing rickets.  That is a disease that we thought was wiped out in developed countries.  The bones in young children don’t have enough calcium and that comes from not having enough vitamin D.

Vitamin D comes from several foods and from sunlight but as parents are being more cautious about exposing their children to the sun because of skin cancers they may have to pay more attention to enhancing their children’s diets with some extra vitamin D and calcium.

It isn’t like this is an epidemic. It’s just a concern because we all thought we had it licked and now it’s showing up again.  Black children are slightly more likely to come down with it than white children and that is probably because the melanin in their skin deflects some of the rays of the sun lowering the bodies absorption rates of vitamin D.

Let me let the professionals talk about it.  This is a bit of an article from way back in 2003 from the La Times:

The body needs vitamin D to regulate levels of calcium, which plays an important role in many body processes and regulates muscle function, nerve function and blood clotting. With too little vitamin D — found in eggs, meat, green leafy vegetables, fish oil and fortified cereals — the body becomes unable to absorb enough calcium to keep bones strong. The bones weaken, causing deformities of the legs, arms, spine, skull and chest, fractures, dental deformities and pain associated with rickets.

Darker-skinned children are more vulnerable to vitamin D deficiency — and thus more susceptible to rickets — because their pigmentation naturally filters out sunlight. But exposing them to more sun could raise their risk of skin cancer, posing a dilemma for doctors and parents trying to prevent the disease. Further complicating the problem is that sunscreens prevent vitamin D synthesis.

*

Benefits of sunlight

Pitukcheewanont believes that the benefit of “appropriate sun exposure outweighs the risk of skin cancer, especially in children,” and recommends at least 20 minutes of midday sun three times a week for children in Southern California. Although sunlight is the best natural source of vitamin D, parents seeking an alternative can give their children vitamin D supplements.

At King-Drew Medical Center in South Los Angeles, Dr. Robert Christiansen, a pediatric endocrinologist, said he’s been seeing two to three serious nutritional rickets cases annually in recent years, almost all among African American kids. “Most of the kids I see are developing it in the first eight months of life. The ones I see are the ones that get into trouble with very low calcium; their calcium goes down and they have a seizure.”

 

The body needs vitamin D to regulate levels of calcium, which plays an important role in many body processes and regulates muscle function, nerve function and blood clotting. With too little vitamin D — found in eggs, meat, green leafy vegetables, fish oil and fortified cereals — the body becomes unable to absorb enough calcium to keep bones strong. The bones weaken, causing deformities of the legs, arms, spine, skull and chest, fractures, dental deformities and pain associated with rickets.

Darker-skinned children are more vulnerable to vitamin D deficiency — and thus more susceptible to rickets — because their pigmentation naturally filters out sunlight. But exposing them to more sun could raise their risk of skin cancer, posing a dilemma for doctors and parents trying to prevent the disease. Further complicating the problem is that sunscreens prevent vitamin D synthesis.

*

Benefits of sunlight

Pitukcheewanont believes that the benefit of “appropriate sun exposure outweighs the risk of skin cancer, especially in children,” and recommends at least 20 minutes of midday sun three times a week for children in Southern California. Although sunlight is the best natural source of vitamin D, parents seeking an alternative can give their children vitamin D supplements.

At King-Drew Medical Center in South Los Angeles, Dr. Robert Christiansen, a pediatric endocrinologist, said he’s been seeing two to three serious nutritional rickets cases annually in recent years, almost all among African American kids. “Most of the kids I see are developing it in the first eight months of life. The ones I see are the ones that get into trouble with very low calcium; their calcium goes down and they have a seizure.”

Okay, so important things to note are that nursing mothers need to supplement Vitamin D for themselves and for their babies.

Also, since vitamins need each other in the body in order to be properly used there may be other vitamins or minerals  that are necessary for vitamin D to be useful.  I’m thinking of magnesium particularly.

You can pick up Vitamin D3 in your local pharmacy.  Or you can get it in a multivitamin, or fish oil supplements.

Just think about it!

love,

mo

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