Saturday, 10 February 2018 21:01

Somali kids aren't getting enough vitamin D, study says

An increasing incidence of children with rickets has also been documented in the USA. In a population-based study over 40 years in Olmsted County, Minnesota, the incidence of nutritional rickets in children younger than 3 years was 0, 2.2, 3.7, and 24.1 per 100,000 for the decades beginning in 1970, 1980, 1990, and 2000, respectively [7]. Most children with rickets were black. The rising incidence of rickets was temporally associated with an increase in dark-skinned (predominantly Somali) immigrants who have settled in Minnesota since 1994 [8]. The incidence of rickets in black children was estimated as 220 per 100,000. Similarly, a high proportion (71 %) of children with vitamin D deficiency were of Somali origin in Bristol, United Kingdom [9].
Dark skin pigmentation, sun avoidance, covering the skin, and prolonged breast feeding without vitamin D supplementation, are important risk factors for vitamin D deficiency, and combined with a lack of dairy products in the diet, these deficiencies can result in insufficient calcium supply for bone mineralization. We recommend screening all immigrant and refugee children under 5 years of age from these ethnic groups for nutritional rickets, based on clinical features, and confirming the diagnosis with radiographs of the wrists and knees. Because nutritional rickets is entirely preventable, public health policies must address the need for universal vitamin D supplementation and adequate dietary calcium to protect children from this scourge. Vitamin D supplementation of all infants and children with 400 IU/d during the first year of life and dietary or supplemental intakes of at least 600 IU/d of vitamin D and 500 mg/d of calcium thereafter, will effectively prevent nutritional rickets. We call on national health authorities of host countries to implement health check lists and prevention programs that include screening for micronutrient deficiencies, in addition to assessing infections and vaccination programs. Due to their high prevalence of vitamin D deficiency, refugee children of all ages from these ethnic groups should be supplemented with vitamin D, beginning upon arrival.
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