Monday, February 14, 2011

Sunscreen causes rickets - new wave of cases in England

Overprotective parents who cover their children with sunscreen even in far northern latitudes have helped bring the disease rickets back from the grave across the United Kingdom, orthopedic surgeon Nicholas Clark has warned.

Ricketts is a childhood bone-softening disease produced by deficiency of vitamin D, which the body produces upon exposure to sunlight. Children living far from the equator, where the sun is weaker, are particularly at risk if they do not get regular skin exposure to full-strength sunlight. The disease was common in the United Kingdom for centuries, until fortification of milk helped stamp it out 80 years ago.

Now doctors are warning that cases are on the rise even in the southern parts of England, where they had not been seen for decades.

"The return of
rickets in northern parts of the UK came as a surprise despite the colder climate and lower levels of sunshine in the north, but what has developed in Southampton is quite astonishing," Clark said.

"In my 22 years at Southampton General Hospital, this is a completely new occurrence ... that has evolved over the last 12 to 24 months and we are seeing cases across the board, from areas of deprivation up to the middle classes."

Clark attributes the rise in rickets in large part to a more sedentary, indoor lifestyle combined with over-application of sunscreen.

Only extreme cases of vitamin D deficiency produce rickets, but more mild cases of deficiency and insufficiency can also increase the risk of a wide variety of diseases.

"Vitamin D levels ... significantly affect the complications associated with ... a Westernized diet and lifestyle," writes Gabriel Cousens in his book There Is a Cure for Diabetes.

"Research shows that vitamin D has a variety of important benefits besides lowering blood sugar. It seems to protect against eighteen different kinds of cancers, has a significant positive impact on the immune system in fighting colds and flus, viruses, and TB, and protects against rickets and osteoporosis."

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