August 26, 2008

Vitamin D deficiency in minority children

I saw this sad story in the Times today about breastfeeding and minority children. It talks about Vitamin D deficiency in breastfed children. For those who haven't been through it, if you are breastfeeding, it's important to supplement your infant's diet with Vitamin D, which can be purchased over the counter in liquid form. Babies who don't get enough Vitamin D can have problems with rickets. The article says:

The patients are more likely to be African-American and dark-skinned, and more likely to have been exclusively breast-fed for an extended period of time, without vitamin supplementation. Rates are often higher when there is less sunlight.

In a study conducted by Dr. Gordon of vitamin D levels in 365 mostly African-American and Latino infants and toddlers, 40 percent had low levels and 12 percent were deficient. Although there is a debate about what levels are considered deficient, one toddler in the study was found to have rickets, 13 children showed evidence of bone loss and 3 had bone changes consistent with rickets.
It's sad because this is a problem that can be resolved through greater education in minority neighborhoods. Most people would never know about the need to supplement--I certainly wouldn't have known if our pediatrician had forgotten to tell us--and it's so easily preventable. We need to think about ways to share knowledge and to disseminate it to those in need, especially for those communities which historically haven't had access to such information.

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