Doctors Say Rickets Is Back

ByABC News
August 10, 2000, 3:33 PM

B O S T O N, Aug. 10 -- An exclusive diet of breast milk could be putting some babies at risk for vitamin D deficiency and thus at risk for rickets, a bone-weakening disorder that has been virtually nonexistent in the United States for decades.

Doctors nationwide are reporting a small spike in the number of breast-fed babies developing nutritional rickets, Rickets is caused by a lack of vitamin D, which is crucial for strong bone development. It can result in stunted growth, broken bones and bow legs in children.

Breast milk, though an excellent source of nutrition overall, provides little vitamin D. Babies can get the vitamin instead from a splash of sunlight or from a daily supplement.

But rickets may be on the rise, researchers believe, because of the renewed popularity of breast-feeding, along with doctors failure to properly prescribe vitamin D supplements to breast-feeding moms.

Dark Skin, High Risk At special risk are dark-skinned babies, whose pigmentation prevents them from using sunlight to produce the necessary vitamin D.

But babies of any race who arent getting enough vitamin D from their diet and arent getting a daily dose of sunlight are potentially at risk of developing rickets, researchers say.

Doctors at two medical centers in North Carolina report in this months issue of the Journal of Pediatrics that they saw 30 cases of rickets in breast-fed black infants from 1990 though 1999, with more than half of the cases occurring in the last 18 months alone.

This June, researchers at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas published a report in the journal Texas Medicine about a recent outbreak of rickets among dark-skinned infants who were breast fed, despite the presence of abundant sunlight in the state.

Statewide Surge Cases of rickets have been popping up around the country, from New York to Florida, notes Dr. Robert P. Schwartz, an endocrinologist at Wake Forest University School of Medicine in Winston-Salem, N.C., lead author of the study.