Nutritional rickets in suburbia

J Am Coll Nutr. 1998 Dec;17(6):637-41. doi: 10.1080/07315724.1998.10718814.


Objective: Vitamin D deficiency continues to be a problem in pediatrics. This report presents four children, one Caucasian male and three African-American females aged 4 to 24 months who were treated for vitamin D deficiency rickets.

Methods: One female was diagnosed in the Emergency Department during evaluation of a viral syndrome, another presented with hypocalcemic seizures and the third was a self-referral for evaluation of widened wrists. The male had biochemical rickets discovered incidentally during a hospitalization for pneumonia. All were breastfed without formula supplements. The 24-month female had severe cow and soy protein allergies and received multivitamin supplements intermittently. Birth order was from third to sixth child. Two families practiced Islam and the mothers wore veils. The females had a weight deficit for height. The females demonstrated a rachitic rosary, widening of the wrists and leg bowing. At diagnosis the serum calcium was 5.0-8.6 mg/dl, the inorganic phosphorus was 1.5-3.9 mg/dl and the alkaline phosphatase was 408-3324 U/L. The serum intact parathormone levels and the vitamin D levels were measured at Nichols Laboratories. The 25-OH vitamin D levels were 2-22 ng/ml and the 1,25(OH)2 vitamin D levels were 14-122 pg/ml. All had elevated parathormone levels. The three females had roentgenographic evidence of rickets. Two of the children also demonstrated iron deficiency.

Results: All patients responded to Vitamin D supplements, beginning at 2000 IU for the male and 8,000-10,000 IU daily for the females. Two children were also given calcium supplements. The three females all showed complete healing of the rickets radiologically within six months. The serum intact parathormone demonstrated an inverse correlation with the serum calcium during recovery (r=-0.669; p<0.05).

Conclusion: Vitamin D deficiency does still occur. Breastfed children of multiparous mothers, with increased skin pigmentation, living in the higher latitudes are at increased risk and would benefit from vitamin D supplementation while breastfeeding.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Alkaline Phosphatase / blood
  • Calcium / blood
  • Child, Preschool
  • Dietary Supplements
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant Nutritional Physiological Phenomena*
  • Male
  • Milk, Human
  • Parathyroid Hormone / blood
  • Phosphorus / blood
  • Rickets / diagnosis*
  • Rickets / etiology
  • United States
  • Vitamin D / blood


  • Parathyroid Hormone
  • Vitamin D
  • Phosphorus
  • Alkaline Phosphatase
  • Calcium