New Study: Low Dietary Calcium May be a Major Cause of Nutritional Rickets Among North American Infants

CHEVY CHASE, Md., Aug. 11 /PRNewswire/ -- New research shows that some North American infants are not receiving enough dietary calcium and, as a result, are developing rickets -- a disease usually attributed to a lack of vitamin D or insufficient exposure to sunlight -- at a higher level than previously thought. The new findings, which will be published in the August issue of The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism (JCE&M), highlight the need to maintain a healthy diet for infants and children once breast feeding stops.

Dr. Thomas Carpenter and his colleagues studied the medical records of 43 children in New Haven, Connecticut with nutritional rickets. Eighty-six percent of the children were African American, Hispanic or Middle Eastern descent. More than 93 percent of the children were breastfed, but 15 percent received vitamin D supplementation. Records also showed that 86 percent of the children with available food histories were weaned to diets with minimal dairy content. The average age of developing rickets was 20 months.

Researchers found that nearly 50 percent of the children had normal measures of vitamin D status, suggesting that the incidence of calcium deficiency rickets is much higher than previously thought among North American infants.

"Most people think of rickets as a disease of poor, third world countries. However, we are seeing that in North American communities, infants can develop rickets if they do not receive adequate levels of vitamin D or calcium," explained Dr. Carpenter. "Once breast feeding stops, even with attention to vitamin D, many infants do not have adequate intake of calcium."

He suggests that parents and pediatricians closely monitor the diet of infants and children to make sure that they are receiving an adequate amount of calcium as well as vitamin D.

"Recent trends indicate that the fluid intake of children, once predominantly milk, increasingly consists of soda and fruit juices. Since milk is an excellent source of calcium and vitamin D for children, this trend could be contributing to the high incidence of rickets," notes Dr. Carpenter.

JCE&M is one of four journals published by The Endocrine Society. The Endocrine Society is the world's oldest, largest, and most active organization devoted to research on hormones, and the clinical practice of endocrinology. Endocrinologists are specially trained doctors who diagnose, treat and conduct basic and clinical research on complex hormonal disorders such as diabetes, thyroid disease, osteoporosis, obesity, hypertension, cholesterol and reproductive disorders. Today, The Endocrine Society's membership consists of over 10,000 scientists, physicians, educators, nurses and students, in more than 80 countries. Together, these members represent all basic, applied, and clinical interests in endocrinology. The Endocrine Society is based in Bethesda, Maryland. To learn more about the Society, and the field of endocrinology, visit the Society's web site at

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