Monday, February 8, 2010

Rickets on the Rise

Newspapers report that rickets is on the rise. Remember rickets? Dickensian malady of children in the poorhouse, surely? Not our darlings.

Yes indeed. Obeisance to the mantra Sun Is Bad, the increased time children spend indoors and probably poor diets, is causing vitamin D deficiencies. Children's bones are softening, bending to the insufficiencies once the herald of poor children in poor countries.

We need more sun.

These are my gloomy thoughts on a winter morning, sodden and alone in the bike lane, on a morning when it seems it will never stop raining, and succumbing to auto envy -- all those lucky children sailing past in warm cars. Or are they so lucky?

New research links low Vitamin D to not only rickets, but other awful diseases, including irritable bowel syndrome, multiple sclerosis and cancer. The absolutely, bar none, best way to get vitamin D is to spend approximately 15 minutes a day with 45 percent of your body exposed to sunlight. But sunlight causes cancer! Argh.

Don't panic. Fifteen minutes a day will not, for 99% of us, cause skin cancer. If you're worried about crows feet, slather SPF 50 on your face, or wear a hat.

But there is another hurdle for those of us who live at the 45th parallel or northwards. The optimal time for getting adequate sun exposure is between 10:00 am am and 2:00 pm (most people are at work), and between June 21 and Dec. 21. At other times, the sun is too low to do much good.

Many of us, it appears, need supplementation, or so says my family physician. This news is sending manufacturers into a frenzy of production and advertising, and consumers to purchase and ingest Vitamin D, much as we scurried to manufacture, advertise, purchase and slather ourselves with sunscreen. This will undoubtedly be followed by an epidemic of Vitamin D toxicities, tainted Vitamin D batches imported from overseas, a surge of tanning bed-burn scandals, and reports of sun-caused melanoma.

We're always in pursuit of a quick fix.

Don't panic. Slow down. Get tested. See if you are deficient. See if your children are deficient. If so, find out the best way to take vitamin D, and find the best sources.

And when it rains, don't just get in the car and roll up the windows. Get out an umbrella and walk, and have your kids walk with you. You never know when the sun might come out.

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