Nutritional Rickets and Osteomalacia in the Twenty-first Century: Revised Concepts, Public Health, and Prevention Strategies

Curr Osteoporos Rep. 2017 Aug;15(4):293-302. doi: 10.1007/s11914-017-0383-y.


Purpose of review: Nutritional rickets and osteomalacia are common in dark-skinned and migrant populations. Their global incidence is rising due to changing population demographics, failing prevention policies and missing implementation strategies. The calcium deprivation spectrum has hypocalcaemic (seizures, tetany and dilated cardiomyopathy) and late hypophosphataemic (rickets, osteomalacia and muscle weakness) complications. This article reviews sustainable prevention strategies and identifies areas for future research.

Recent findings: The global rickets consensus recognises the equal contribution of vitamin D and dietary calcium in the causation of calcium deprivation and provides a three stage categorisation for sufficiency, insufficiency and deficiency. For rickets prevention, 400 IU daily is recommended for all infants from birth and 600 IU in pregnancy, alongside monitoring in antenatal and child health surveillance programmes. High-risk populations require lifelong supplementation and food fortification with vitamin D or calcium. Future research should identify the true prevalence of rickets and osteomalacia, their role in bone fragility and infant mortality, and best screening and public health prevention tools.

Keywords: Dietary calcium; Food fortification; Nutritional rickets; Osteomalacia; Supplementation policy; Vitamin D.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Bone Density Conservation Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Calcium, Dietary / therapeutic use*
  • Health Policy
  • Humans
  • Osteomalacia / prevention & control*
  • Public Health
  • Rickets / prevention & control*
  • Vitamin D / therapeutic use*


  • Bone Density Conservation Agents
  • Calcium, Dietary
  • Vitamin D