Thursday, August 10, 2000

Cases of rickets in infants reported

Doctors urge Vitamin D for breast-fed babies

By Tim Bonfield
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Doctors in North Carolina and at Children's Hospital Medical Center in Cincinnati are reporting a small but rising number of infants with rickets, a bone-deforming condition that many medical experts thought had vanished years ago.

        A study published in the latest edition of the Journal of Pediatrics, reports 30 cases of rickets in North Carolina over a 10-year period. Meanwhile, Cincinnati's Children's Hospital reports treating several cases in recent years and one as recently as last week.

        All the new cases involved African-American infants who were breast-fed without getting any vitamin D supplements, researchers said. However, doctors from Children's Hospital are recommending that all breast-fed babies get vitamin D drops, regardless of race.

        “The Healthy People 2000 initiative has set a target of 75 percent of American infants breast-feeding for at least six months. ... Unless this change is accompanied by provision of vitamin D supplementation to replace that currently derived from formula, an epidemic of rickets seems inevitable,” states an editorial published with the study written by Children's Hospital Drs. Thomas Welch and Reginald Tsang, and Dr. William Bergs trom, of SUNY Upstate Medical University in Syracuse, N.Y.

        Rickets is caused by a lack of vitamin D in the body. Untreated, the condition can lead to bowleggedness and more severe bone deformities.

        Normally, people get all the vitamin D they need simply by going out in the sun, which causes the skin to produce the substance. Infant formula, baby vitamins, cow's milk and other drinks also are commonly fortified with vitamin D.


        “Breast milk ... does not include much vitamin D. That's because vitamin D isn't really a vitamin. It is a hormone that's normally produced in the skin,” Dr. Tsang said.


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