Definition of Nutritional Rickets
Rickets is a serious nutritional disorder in children who do not get sufficient amounts of calcium, phosphorus or vitamin D, which are vital for healthy, growing bones, in their diet. The result is weak bones, bowed legs, and other bone deformities. (1)
Our bodies need vitamin D to help absorb calcium and phosphorus from the food we eat. If your child doesn’t get enough vitamin D nutritional rickets can result. (2) Some children are actually born with rickets, perhaps as a result of their bodies not being able to use vitamin D properly.
This article looks at nutritional rickets.
Rickets was actually eradicated in the United States in the 1930s once scientists discovered the effects of adequate amounts of vitamin D. The incident rate of rickets hasn’t been tracked since then, so it’s difficult to know for sure how many cases are appearing in the United States now. One study estimates nine cases per 1 million children.
However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says it may be more like five cases per 1 million children aged 6 months to 5 years. What is consistent throughout multiple studies is that most of the affected children were black-skinned. (4)
Risk Factors for Nutritional Rickets
There are several risk factors that may make a child more susceptible for developing rickets.
• Exclusive, long-term breastfeeding
Breast milk generally contains less than 20-40 IU/L (international units per litre) of vitamin D. (3) The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that infants (babies less than 12 months old) get 400 IUs of vitamin D per day. (5)
• Low calcium intake
Children who take in less than 300 mg of calcium per day (about one cup of milk) are at risk for rickets. (1)
• Lack of sun exposure/Use of sunscreen
Our skin produces vitamin D when it’s exposed to ultraviolet B rays.