Nutritional rickets in African American breast-fed infants

J Pediatr. 2000 Aug;137(2):153-7. doi: 10.1067/mpd.2000.109009.


Objective: To analyze the characteristics of infants and children diagnosed with nutritional rickets at two medical centers in North Carolina in the 1990s.

Study design: The physical and radiographic findings, calcium, phosphorus, alkaline phosphatase, and 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels of infants and children diagnosed with nutritional rickets at two medical centers were reviewed. Breast-feeding data were obtained from the North Carolina Women, Infants and Children Program (WIC).

Results: Thirty patients with nutritional rickets were first seen between 1990 and June of 1999. Over half of the cases occurred in 1998 and the first half of 1999. All patients were African American children who were breast fed without receiving supplemental vitamin D. The average duration of breast-feeding was 12.5 months. The age at diagnosis was 5 to 25 months, with a median age of 15.5 months. Growth failure was common: length was <5th percentile in 65% of cases, and weight was <5th percentile in 43%.

Conclusion: Factors that may have contributed to the increase in referrals of children with nutritional rickets include more African American women breast-feeding, fewer infants receiving vitamin D supplements, and mothers and children exposed to less sunlight. We recommend that all dark-skinned breast-fed infants and children receive vitamin D supplementation.

MeSH terms

  • Blacks*
  • Breast Feeding / adverse effects*
  • Child, Preschool
  • Dietary Supplements
  • Female
  • Food, Fortified
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Male
  • North Carolina / epidemiology
  • Rickets / epidemiology
  • Rickets / etiology*
  • Rickets / prevention & control
  • Vitamin D / therapeutic use


  • Vitamin D