Babies on Homemade Formula Hospitalized With Rickets

  • Three babies were hospitalized with rickets and other serious deficiencies linked to homemade formula.
  • The alkaline-diet formulas contained ingredients like sea moss, coconut water, and hemp seeds. 
  • Sea moss is a good source of iodine, but too much can be dangerous, especially in children. 

Infants are being hospitalized with rickets and brain injuries after being fed homemade alkaline-diet formulas, according to a new report out of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The formulas, presumably based on the celebrity-endorsed alkaline diet, contained ingredients like sea moss, hemp seeds, dates, coconut water and alkaline water, but insufficient nutrients like

vitamin D
and calcium. 

The alkaline diet, which has little scientific support, promotes the idea that eating alkaline foods (like raw fruits and veggies, nuts, legumes, and soy) and limiting acidic foods (like animal products and grains) helps the body maintain a healthy PH and reap health benefits. 

The authors of the report say the babies’ cases illustrate the dangers of homemade formulas, emphasizing that breast milk and commercial formulas contain the vitamins and nutrients babies need for optimal growth and development. 

One baby needed to be resuscitated, and all had bone deformities  

The report describes three babies in three states who experienced life-threatening deficiencies believed to be linked to their formulas. 

One 4-month old who’d been on an alkaline formula for a month had to be intubated and receive mechanical ventilation after he became unresponsive at home. Despite the emergency services, which also included IV fluid replacement, the baby suffered multiple episodes of cardiac arrest and a severely low heart rate. 

After being resuscitated, doctors found he’d suffered brain damage due to a lack of oxygen, as well as serious electrolyte deficiencies. He also had symptoms of rickets, or the softening and weakening of bones due to an extreme

vitamin D deficiency

Another baby, a five-month old, went to the ER with stiffened limbs, bluish skin, and breathing issues after two months on an alkaline-diet formula. Tests showed low calcium levels and bone deformities indicative of rickets. He was given an IV loaded with calcium and

, and sent home after being put on a commercial infant formula. 

The third baby, a nine-month-old boy, arrived at the hospital after five days of irritability. He was found to be small and short for his age, and had a misshapen head. He couldn’t sit up by himself and had poor motor skills. Tests also showed the baby was deficient in calcium, vitamin D, and iodine. He was given supplements and discharged to a long-term care facility.

The authors cautioned parents to steer clear of homemade formulas, which can lead to long-term developmental consequences and life-threatening conditions like

heart failure
. The CDC and the FDA have strongly advised against such formulas. 

Too much or too little iodine, found in sea moss, can be dangerous

Even though the alkaline diet isn’t science-backed, it can still be healthy for adults. But attempting to create an alkaline-diet infant formula is risky. 

Sea moss, an ingredient in each of the three infants’ formulas, contains heavy amounts of iodine, which is an essential nutrient for growth and development. The third baby, whose parents stopped including sea moss in his formula a few months prior to hospitalization, needed iodine supplementation. 

But it’s also possible to consume too much iodine. The nutrient should only be eaten in small amounts, especially in children

Too much iodine can also cause thyroid damage and interfere with hormone balance, according to WebMD. The third infant in the report had a thyroid stimulating hormone level of 94,600 mU/L; a normal level is 0.5 to five mU/L. 

It’s unclear how much sea moss the infants in the report consumed. 

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