Research: CHENG and colleagues,

Listed in Issue 36


CHENG and colleagues, Department of Epidemiology, Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, MA, USA studied the relationship of nutritional factors to lead accumulation in the body in men aged 49-93 years.



Recruits were 747 men aged 49-93, (mean 67 years), from the Normative Aging Study in 1991-95.


Mean levels for blood lead, tibia lead, and patella lead were 6.2 microg/dl, 21.9 microg/g and 32 microg/g respectively. Men in the lowest quintile of total dietary intake levels of vitamin D (including vitamin supplements) (<179 i.u./day) had mean tibia and patella lead levels 5.6 microg/g and 6.0 microg/g higher than men in the highest intake quintile (> or = 589 i.u./day), according to multiple regression models adjusted for age, education level, smoking and alcohol consumption. There were inverse associations of blood lead levels with total dietary intake of vitamin C and iron; men in the lowest vitamin C intake quintile (<109 mg/day) had a mean blood lead level 7.7 microg/dl higher tan men in the highest quintile (> or = 339 mg/day) and men in the lowest iron intake quintile (<10.9 mg/day) had a mean blood lead level 1.1 microg/dl higher than men in the highest quintile (> or = 23.5 mg/day).


Low dietary intake of vitamin D may increase lead accumulation in bones and lower dietary intake of vitamin C and iron may increase lead levels in the blood.


Cheng Y et al. Relation of nutrition to bone lead and blood lead levels in middle-aged to elderly men. The Normative Aging Study. Am J Epidemiol 147(12): 1162-74. June 15 1998.


This is an extraordinary result with a simple take-home message: higher vitamins D and C and iron levels mean lower lead levels in bones and blood.

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