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New cases of rickets linked to shunning sun

Cancer scare turning kids into Tiny Tim?

I spent much of the holiday season watching several versions of a Christmas classic–Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol. I’m not going to lie, I think the version with the Muppets is my favorite.

In all of those versions, we meet dear Tiny Tim–the invalid son of Bob Cratchit, whose family cannot afford medical treatment for Tim due to Ebenezer Scrooge’s miserly ways. Who among us doesn’t feel a tug at the heartstrings when Tiny Tim calls out “God bless us, every one”?

Tiny Tim and Scrooge start fading away around this time of year, to be brought out again in December, but in Great Britain, they’re raising up a whole new generation of real-life Tiny Tims.

You see, the nature of Tiny Tim’s illness isn’t revealed in the novella, but many have speculated that he suffers from rickets, a softening of bones due to vitamin D deficiency. While it’s common in third-world countries, the disease is seen as a relic of the 19th century in the modern world.

But our fear of cancer may be bringing it back. The number of rickets cases in Great Britain has increased fivefold in the past four years–just last year more than 760 children were sent to the hospital suffering from rickets.

And as we continue to slather on triple-digit SPF sunblocks and keep children out of the sun, that number is only going to go up.

Kids just don’t spend as much time outside as they used to, meaning they’re not getting that vitamin D boost from the sun (and how many kids do you know who get the daily spoonful of vitamin-D-rich cod liver oil so many of us had to choke down in childhood?).

A representative from the British Dietetic Association lamented that we may be taking our fear of the sun too far–especially in Great Britain, where they don’t have too many sunny days. She worries that children just aren’t getting enough sun exposure to have healthy levels of vitamin D–hence, the return of rickets.

Dr. Wright has long been a proponent of getting out in the sun to boost the body’s production of vitamin D. He warns that even a decent amount of sun exposure might not be enough, and that we should all be sure to take our vitamin D supplements, too. He suggests an extra 4,000 IU (“International Units”) daily for adults and teenagers, 1,000 IU for infants and small children, and 2,000 IU for everyone in between. Of course, it’s always best to consult a doctor skilled in natural medicine to find the exact level that is right for you.

Fear of skin cancer keeps people out of the sun, but vitamin D helps protect against a slew of cancers: breast, prostate, and colon being at the top of the list. A 2008 study from the National Academy of Science supports Dr. Wright’s stance, coming right out and saying that the benefits of sun exposure may indeed outweigh the risks.

Of course, I’m telling you all of this in January, when sunshine is hard to come by for most of us. Which is why it’s so important to keep up with those supplements. And hey, could there be a better excuse to pack up the family for a sunny vacation?

P.S. Looking to boost your weight loss safely and effectively? Keep reading.

“Keeping out of the sun ‘is bringing rickets back’ as cases increase fivefold in 14 years,” Mail Online (

“Addressing the health benefits and risks, involving vitamin D or skin cancer, of increased sun exposure,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Science 2008; 105(2): 668-673