NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

The Return of Rickets

January 7, 2004

In recent years, public health experts have been encouraging mothers to breast-feed infants and keep them from sun exposure in order to reduce the risk of skin cancer. However, these measures have reduced the intake of Vitamin D in children under 6 months. As a result, rickets, a disease which had almost disappeared in the United States is on the rise.

In 2000, North Carolina doctors discovered an unusual number of cases of rickets, prompting the CDC to begin monitoring the disease.

  • From 1990 to 1995, about 9 children per million in the United States were diagnosed with rickets.
  • From 1996 to 2000, the number increased to 13 children per million; a smaller study indicated that from 1999 to 2000, the rate rose to 23 children per million.
  • A study of children born in Finland in 1966 indicated that those who received 2000 International Units of Vitamin D per day were 80 percent less likely to have type 1 diabetes.
  • A study of elderly women indicated that those who received 800 IUs per day for at least 18 months were 43 percent less likely to incur hip fractures.

Darker skinned individuals and those living in northern latitudes are most at risk; however, researchers agree that most healthy people can increase their Vitamin D intake with as little as 10 to 15 minutes of sun exposure three times per week.

Source: Erik Stokstad, "The Vitamin D Deficit," Science, December 12, 2003.


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