Skip to content

Lower Lead Levels With Iron Fortified Foods

Lead exposure is a big problem for children throughout the United States and the rest of the world - whether lead from plumbing, lead paint, lead solder, and even from nearby mining. There are no safe levels of lead in children (best is zero) because it is a neurotoxicant - thus it can permanently lower IQ scores as well as other neurological effects. More lead gets absorbed if the person also has an iron deficiency than if the person has normal iron levels.

This study found that simply eating iron fortified biscuits daily lowered lead levels (and improved iron levels) in children during a several month period. Two types of iron supplements were tested, and it was found that sodium iron EDTA (which is commonly added to foods) worked better than iron sulphate. The CDC (Centers for Disease Control) recommend eating foods high in calcium, iron, and vitamin C to lower iron absorption. From Science Daily:

Iron supplements in the fight against lead

Lead is a toxic heavy metal that was added to gasoline for use in cars until as recently as 25 years ago. It is particularly harmful to the developing brains of infants, children and teenagers, and the damage it does is irreversible. The situation becomes significantly worse if people are exposed to a high level of lead at the same time as they are suffering from iron deficiency. In the small intestine, lead and iron bind to the same transport protein, which absorbs the metals into the bloodstream. If someone consumes too little iron with their food, the transporter increases its activity, and can carry lead into the bloodstream instead, leading to increased levels of the toxic heavy metal in the body and brain.

A team of researchers led by ETH professor Michael B. Zimmermann from the Laboratory of Human Nutrition have now shown in a study that fortifying food with iron produces a striking reduction in blood lead concentration in children exposed to high levels of the metal. This is the result of a trial involving over 450 children carried out by Zimmermann's former doctoral student Raschida Bouhouch and colleagues in southern Morocco.....Mining in the surrounding area meant that children of preschool and school age were exposed to an increased quantity of lead. At the same time, the level of iron in their blood was relatively low, placing them in a high-risk group.

Depending on their weight, the children were given several white-flour biscuits on a daily basis for a period of four and a half months. The biscuits were fortified with different iron preparations: some received biscuits containing a specific quantity of iron sulphate, while others received biscuits with sodium iron EDTA or sodium EDTA without iron. To test the effect of the iron supplements, some children received only placebo biscuits containing no additional iron. EDTA, which stands for ethylene diamine tetraacetic acid, forms stable complexes with iron, aiding its uptake into the bloodstream from the intestines, but it is not absorbed itself. EDTA can also bind to lead in the intestines, reducing its absorption....Sodium iron EDTA has already been used for iron fortification in foodstuffs for many years.

The researchers measured the children's blood lead concentration and iron status before and after the trial, as well as conducting tests to determine how well the children could solve cognitive tasks. The researchers were delighted to find that the biscuits fortified with iron did indeed reduce the level of lead in the blood -- specifically, by a third with sodium iron EDTA complexes and by a quarter with EDTA and iron sulphate.

Before the study began, the children's blood contained on average 4.3 micrograms of lead per decilitre. Biscuits with added sodium iron EDTA facilitated a reduction in blood lead concentration to 2.9 micrograms per decilitre. The biscuits also brought about an improvement in the children's iron status. On the other hand, the reduction in lead concentration had no effect on cognitive performance, as the researchers discovered during the corresponding tests. Although, contrary to the researchers' expectations, the children's blood lead concentration before supplementation with iron was in line with the worldwide average at 4.3 micrograms per decilitre of blood, it was still possible to achieve a considerable reduction by administering the biscuits.  

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *