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The Return Of the Parachuting Cats!
The American Academy of Pediatrics has just announced that breastfed infants should now get vitamin D supplements to prevent rickets. Infant formulas contain much more vitamin D than breast milk, and there is an apparent resurgence of the condition among babies who have been nursed. That's the word from the nation's leading pediatricians, outlined in a new policy statement issued by the American Academy of Pediatrics. The statement appears in the April 2003 issue of Pediatrics.
"There's evidence that many children are vitamin D-deficient long before they show signs of rickets," says Frank R. Greer, MD, a member of the AAP's Committee on Nutrition, and professor of pediatrics at the University of Wisconsin at Madison. His committee helped write the new policy regarding baby development.
Rickets is a bone-softening disease linked with inadequate vitamin D intake, Greer says. Weakened bones in small children result in bowed legs, soft skulls, and delays in crawling and walking. Doctors are seeing increasing numbers of children with rickets, he says.
This reminds me of a true story I read years ago in a paper by the World Health Organization. In the early 1950's, the Dayak people of Borneo were suffering terribly from malaria. The World Health Organization (WHO) had a solution: It sprayed large amounts of DDT to kill the mosquitoes that carried the malaria. The mosquitoes died and the malaria declined quickly, so the WHO celebrated its vic tory.
But, their victory celebration was cut short when, in just a few short months, the thatched roofs of people's houses began falling in. It seems that the DDT also killed a certain type of parasitic mud wasp that had previously dined on the larvae of thatch-eating caterpillars and kept the caterpillars under control. In addition, the DDT-poisoned insects were eaten by the small lizards known as geckos that were in turn, eaten by cats.
As the cats started to die, rats began to flourish and the people were then threatened by potential outbreaks of typhus and bubonic plague. To cope with these problems, which it had itself created, the WHO came up with the only answer they could think of. They parachuted 14,000 live cats into Borneo!
Now, what does the recommendation for Vitamin D supplements in breast fed babies have to do with this story? Well, you see, babies used to get all the vitamin D they needed by getting ten to twenty minutes of sunshine every day. The sunshine converts what is called "provitamin D" into active vitamin D. The problem is, doctors are afraid to recommend the sunlight anymore because of fears the babies will get skin cancer.