Vitamin D deficiency in a Manitoba community

Can J Public Health. 1993 Nov-Dec;84(6):394-6.


Objective: Using a cross-sectional survey, to investigate the vitamin D status of a random sample of 80 mother-child pairs (child age 3-24 months) in a Manitoba community with a high incidence of rickets.

Method: A questionnaire on feeding habits, gestational history, maternal diet and vitamin supplements was administered to mothers in their homes with the assistance of a local interpreter. Venous blood was collected from both mother and child for serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels.

Results: Of 91% babies initially breastfed, 36% received no formula or milk after weaning and 40% received no vitamin supplements. 24% of mothers took no vitamin supplements during pregnancy and lactation. Knowledge about rickets was poor. In 43% of children and 76% of mothers, serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels were below normal range.

Conclusions: Vitamin D levels are low in this population due to lack of fortified dairy products and vitamin D supplements. A public health program should include counseling on rickets and vitamin D supplementation for all infants and pregnant or lactating women.

PIP: In the isolated Island Lake area of northern Manitoba, which has a high incidence of rickets, interviews were conducted with 80 mothers, each with a child at least 2 years old, living in St. Theresa Point and Garden Hill in their homes during June-July 1987 to determine their knowledge and attitudes towards rickets. Nurses obtained blood samples from the women and their young children so the researchers could determine the vitamin D status of both. The mother-child pairs were native Canadians from the Ojibway linguistic group that speaks its own dialect of Ojibway-Cree. Mothers initially breast fed 91% of the children. After weaning, 1/3 of infants received neither infant formula nor milk. No vitamin supplements were given to 40%. Many of the children who did receive vitamin supplements did not receive them regularly. 70% of the mothers did not drink any milk. 24% were milk-intolerant. 24% took no vitamin supplements during pregnancy and lactation. Mothers who did take supplements did not do so regularly. 17% claimed that their skin was sensitive to sunlight. 84% of mothers in one community had never heard of rickets. Most did not know its cause. Neither mothers nor the children were exposed to the sunlight in the summer. When outside, almost all small infants were completely covered to protect them from the elements. The mean 25-hydroxy-vitamin D level was 26.2 nmol/l for the children and 19.8 nmol/l for the mothers. 43% of children and 76% of mothers had a 25-hydroxy-vitamin D level below the normal range. These high levels of vitamin D insufficiency were even more troublesome given that the blood was taken in late June and July when vitamin D levels would be likely to be at their highest. The dearth of vitamin D fortified dairy products and vitamin supplements greatly contributed to the low level of vitamin D status in this area. The findings show a need for public health officials to include education on rickets and vitamin D supplementation for all infants and pregnant or lactating women.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Breast Feeding
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Feeding Behavior
  • Female
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Manitoba / epidemiology
  • Nutrition Surveys
  • Nutritional Sciences / education
  • Rickets / etiology
  • Rickets / prevention & control
  • Vitamin D Deficiency / blood
  • Vitamin D Deficiency / complications
  • Vitamin D Deficiency / epidemiology*
  • Vitamins / therapeutic use


  • Vitamins