Vitamin D Newsletter


Sun Important For Children's Health

April from Minnesota writes:

Dr. Cannell: I have always been very protective of my children's health. I made sure they ate right, went to bed on time, and always wore sunblock. A few weeks ago, my 16 year old computer whiz son decided to start jogging instead of playing computer games all weekend. The very first day he came home with his right foot hurting and the doctor said the x-ray showed he had broken a bone in his foot, a "stress fracture," from jogging! He didn't step on anything or twist his ankle, it just broke for no reason. The doctor told him he should drink more milk but he drinks plenty of milk. What could have caused this?

Dr. Cannell replies:

Your son had what I call a "Gilchrest fracture." About 30 years ago, dermatologists like Barbara Gilchrest at Boston University, began telling Americans, including children, to stay out of the sun, lather on the sunblock, and to "drink milk" if they are concerned about vitamin D. The problem is that your son would have to drink at least 40 glasses of milk a day to get enough vitamin D if he followed her sun-avoidance advice and it sounds like he did.

Gilchrest fractures are vitamin D deficiency fractures in healthy people that occur after normal activities. Two studies have clearly linked such fractures to low vitamin D levels. A recent Finnish study found Gilchrest fractures to be almost four times more likely in young soldiers with vitamin D levels below 30 ng/ml (75 nmol/L). An earlier study of Israeli soldiers showed the same thing. The surprising thing about both studies was none of the men were obviously vitamin D deficient, indicating—once again—that current lower limits of vitamin D blood levels are set too low and that serum 25(OH)D levels should be maintained at 50–80 ng/ml (125–200 nmol/L), year-round.

The rates of Gilchrest fractures, even in young people, have been steadily increasing over the last thirty years, since dermatologists have been handing out their pathological advice. For example, the incidence of fractured wrists in American kids went up 32% in boys and 56% in girls between the years 1970–2000.

A study in Great Britain showed a clear latitudinal variation with the lowest fracture rates in sunnier southeast England and the highest rates in of Gilchrest fractures in Northern Ireland, Wales, and Scotland.

The good news is that your son only suffered a broken foot by following Professor Gilchrest's advice. As you will see below, others have lost their lives.

Page last edited: 08 November 2010