Analysis of patterning in the occurrence of skeletal lesions used as indicators of vitamin D deficiency in subadult and adult skeletal remains
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Paleopathological investigations of conditions linked to vitamin D deficiency have increased in the last twenty years, and a suite of skeletal lesions has been established to aid in the diagnosis of vitamin D deficiency disease in subadults and adults. This paper analyzes the occurrence of these lesions in a large skeletal series comprising 3541 Roman period individuals (1st-6th century AD). Sixteen lesions reported in rickets in subadults, and 13 associated with residual rickets and osteomalacia in adults, were analyzed. Among subadults, there were clear associations among post-cranial lesions. Porotic cranial changes were associated with each other, but not with post-cranial lesions. A range of conditions could have produced the cranial lesions. There was a general paucity of correlations between indicators found in adults, and the difficulty in recording bending deformities was clear. Pseudofractures appear to provide a useful means of investigating osteomalacia in adults. In general, a simple algorithmic approach using presence or absence of lesions is unlikely to provide an adequate means of diagnosing vitamin D deficiency in paleopathology. Knowledge and consideration of the underlying physiological mechanisms involved in lesion formation, combined with individual judgement, will be required to differentially diagnose cases.
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