Why would a child have rickets in the Caribbean?

30 Oct

Earlier last week Frond and I were studying at the library when we heard a nice ruckus stir up outside.  It was a full piece band with tuba, horns, drums, and crisp white uniforms!  It was Grenadian Thanksgiving and there was a small ceremony being held to commemorate the occasion, as well as remember the 19 US Marines who died when they came to Grenada to oust the group that had overthrown the previous government.

Frond and I, curious, went outside and sat a ways away to spot the Chancellor and other dignitaries.  When we got outside there were a few other people sitting close but not too close like us.  One of them was a woman and a toddler, they both looked Grenadian.  The baby was well dressed and looked healthy but I noticed her classic bow-legs right away.  Rickets!

Bow leg of Rickets. Photo by the Thatcher Family.

Rickets is a childhood bone deformity caused by a lack of Vitamin D.  Vitamin D can be absorbed in the diet but mostly the body creates it’s own vitamin D on exposure to sunlight.  So why would a child have rickets in the Caribbean?

This morning on the drive to school I saw another child with rickets.  He was walking down the side of the road with a grandmotherly figure and another child.  All three looked well dressed and otherwise healthy, at least in my 2 second glimpse.  Leah says it’s really common in developing countries despite being in the tropics.  I’m not sure how much this has been studied but it is a really interesting question, considering that even in a Caribbean medical school, we’re taught that vitamin D deficiencies and rickets is due to lack of sunlight.  There must be more to it than just sunlight.

Emma Morton for The Sun, Nov. 13/10

Maybe a lack of nutrition somehow affects the body’s ability to generate vitamin D?  Perhaps there’s another mineral deficiency going on, calcium or phosphorus. Maybe age-related; I haven’t seen many older kids with rickets, just the two toddler-aged children.  Hmm.

8 Responses to “Why would a child have rickets in the Caribbean?”

  1. Shannon October 30, 2011 at 6:48 pm #

    not enough cholesterol rich foods? precursor to vit D? (i have no idea what the diet is like in the caribbean.. though i guess i would imagine they eat a lot of fish? hm)
    that’s pretty interesting..

    • Sunny October 30, 2011 at 7:18 pm #

      ya it’s interesting! it might be not having enough cholesterol in the diet but it seems like there’s plenty really. rich foods are pretty popular here, like fried stuff or food made with coconut oil. lots of chicken legs, fish is popular ya..plantains and rice. they also have a lot of avocados. it’s interesting if malnutrition is it because although it’s small Grenada grows a lot of fresh produce which isn’t too hard to find at affordable prices. but it does seem nutritional related though, huh.

  2. shannon October 30, 2011 at 6:50 pm #

    ooo. i don’t like how my whole name showed up! bah. stupid internet.

    • Sunny October 30, 2011 at 8:00 pm #

      edited pour vous!

      • shannon October 30, 2011 at 8:23 pm #


  3. Jack January 14, 2016 at 12:11 pm #

    Did you figure this out? Please email me. Im a doc in Boston.


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