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August 3, 1940


JAMA. 1940;115(5):370-379. doi:10.1001/jama.1940.72810310011009a

Rickets can be prevented and cured in two ways: by irradiation of the skin with ultraviolet rays and by ingestion of vitamin D. How does it happen that the disease yields to two methods of treatment which seem so totally dissimilar? The answer is that, owing to a device of nature, the two lead to the same final result, namely the absorption of vitamin D into the blood. The skin is full of 7-dehydrocholesterol. Active ultraviolet rays, impinging on the skin, convert the 7-dehydrocholesterol, which is the provitamin form of D, into the vitamin form. The vitamin is then absorbed into the blood. If vitamin D is fed, it is absorbed from the small intestine. In the former case the vitamin was manufactured on the surface of the body as the result of chemical action of light; in the latter it entered the alimentary tract ready made.


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