Debilitating Childhood Ailment, Is Preventable
AUBURN, April 10---Rickets,
a severely debilitating disease, appears to be making a comeback in
the United States. That troubles health professionals as well as
nutrition experts since it is almost 40 years after it was believed
to be eradicated. Research suggests a combination of factors, such
as inadequate exposure to sunlight and decreased milk consumption by
toddlers, is contributing to the ailment's resurgence.
Barbara Struempler, a nutritionist with the Alabama Cooperative
Extension System, says the tragedy of the reappearance of rickets is
that the condition, which results in skeletal abnormalities, is
"Diets with very
low calcium and vitamin D intake can contribute to rickets in babies
and children," says Struempler. "Research shows infants
drinking at least two 8-ounce bottles of infant formula or children
consuming the same amount of vitamin D-fortified whole milk get the
daily recommended intake of vitamin D.
research suggests that exclusively breastfed infants may benefit
from supplemental vitamin D."
Exposure to sunlight
stimulates the human body to produce vitamin D, but some children
may not get enough exposure to produce the amount their body needs.
Struempler says another
concern is the growing trend of parents giving their children milk
substitutes to drink.
"Recent accounts in
medical journals show some parents are feeding their children soy-
or rice-based milk. Some of these do not contain Vitamin D and may
not be fortified with calcium," says Struempler. "Infants
less than a year old should be given breast milk or infant formula.
After a year of age, children need at least three servings a day of
milk, yogurt or cheese to ensure adequate calcium and vitamin D
"If parents choose
to feed their toddler or older children a milk substitute such as
soy milk, it's vital they offer one that is fortified in calcium and
contains vitamin D."
Struempler says beverage
choices among American children of all ages is a concern.
growing consumption of soft drinks, juice and juice drinks among
children and teens. They're just not choosing milk products,"
Parents should remember
that children learn by watching their parents.
consistently choose soft drinks or juice for themselves, it's not
surprising their children want the same beverages," says
Struempler. "Parents can encourage milk drinking by choosing
milk as a beverage at mealtimes or snack times for themselves."
SOURCE: Dr. Barbara
Struempler, Extension Nurtiionist, Alabama Cooperative Extension
System (334) 844-2217