First of all, I don't want to antagonize Big Pharma. According to congressional records, large pharmaceutical companies are struggling as it is -- what with all those senior citizens breaking the law and running off to Canada to get their prescriptions filled instead of spending that money here at home -- and if I go about irresponsibly accusing Big Pharma of making money at the expense of our children as well, I could run the risk of hurting some corporate feelings.
Second, I shouldn't be writing about this for personal reasons. Although kidney stones usually only occur in middle-aged people, they are suddenly becoming quite common in American children and my neighbor's child, a beautiful wonderful six-year-old girl, just got struck down with kidney stones too. Kidney stones are supposed to be the most painful thing that can happen to you this side of being in labor for two days before giving birth to a 15-pound infant. And my neighbor's child is a bit shy and doesn't want me to mention her name in my blog. I may want to be famous but she doesn't. She likes Hannah Montana a lot and would not mind being secretly famous -- but not just for having kidney stones!
But I keep thinking that I have to write up this story anyway -- if it will possibly in any way prevent other little girls like my neighbor's child from going through this kind of torture.
"Just keep your mouth shut, Jane. You are NOT a scientist!"
But in any case, parents should be made aware of this horrible new development -- that is currently being blamed on salt.
Here's an article about it from the New York Times:
A Rise in Kidney Stones Is Seen in U.S. Children, by Laurie Tarkan, published on October 27, 2008
To the great surprise of parents, kidney stones, once considered a disorder of middle age, are now showing up in children as young as 5 or 6.
While there are no reliable data on the number of cases, pediatric urologists and nephrologists across the country say they are seeing a steep rise in young patients. Some hospitals have opened pediatric kidney stone clinics.
"The older doctors would say in the '70s and '80s, they'd see a kid with a stone once every few months," said Dr. Caleb P. Nelson, a urology instructor at Harvard Medical School who is co-director of the new kidney stone center at Children's Hospital Boston. "Now we see kids once a week or less."
Dr. John C. Pope IV, an associate professor of urologic surgery and pediatrics at the Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt in Nashville, said, "When we tell parents, most say they've never heard of a kid with a kidney stone and think something is terribly wrong with their child."
In China recently, many children who drank milk tainted with melamine - a toxic chemical illegally added to watered-down milk to inflate the protein count - developed kidney stones.
The increase in the United States is attributed to a host of factors, including a food additive that is both legal and ubiquitous: salt.
Forty to 65 percent of kidney stones are formed when oxalate, a byproduct of certain foods, binds to calcium in the urine. (Other common types include calcium phosphate stones and uric acid stones.) And the two biggest risk factors for this binding process are not drinking enough fluids and eating too much salt; both increase the amount of calcium and oxalate in the urine.
Excess salt has to be excreted through the kidneys, but salt binds to calcium on its way out, creating a greater concentration of calcium in the urine and the kidneys.