Dietary zinc, calcium and nickel are associated with lower childhood blood lead levels

Brian Gulson*, Karen Mizon, Alan Taylor, Michael Wu

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    17 Citations (Scopus)


    The potential mitigation of elevated blood lead (PbB) levels with nutrient intake remains debatable. A comprehensive review by Kordas (2017) concluded that careful examination of the links between nutrition (nutritional status, nutrients, diet) and lead (Pb) exposure revealed limited and tenuous evidence. We have measured 20 elements including calcium (Ca), chromium (Cr), copper (Cu), iron (Fe), magnesium (Mg), manganese (Mn), nickel (Ni), zinc (Zn), and Pb from 6-day duplicate diets of 108 young children over a 5-year period and expressed these as intakes per body weight. Bivariate analyses showed a weak positive association between the Pb content in the diets of the participants and the level of Pb in their blood, as might be expected. Weak, but negative, associations occurred between the other elements in the diet and PbB. The associations for Ca, Mg, Ni and Zn were statistically significant for both subject-based (between subjects) and within-subject effects: that is, as the levels of elements in diet increased, the PbB level decreased. The largest percentage of variance of PbB in the context of the bivariate model accounted for was 4.23% for Zn, followed by Ca (3.91%) and Fe (2.20%). Supplementary analyses indicated that the between- and within-subject effects did not vary with the age at which participants entered the study, or with the levels of elements at their first measurement. A multivariable analysis using Weighted Quantile Sum Regressions showed that a weighted composite comprised of all the dietary elements had a significant association with PbB when adjusted for Pb in the diet and other covariates and also when adjusted for Pb in house dust; the latter was found to have the strongest association with PbB in earlier analyses. The highest weights were for Ca (0.29), Ni (0.27) and Zn (0.22); these results are generally consistent with those from the mixed model analyses.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)439-444
    Number of pages6
    JournalEnvironmental Research
    Publication statusPublished - Jan 2019


    • Blood lead
    • Children
    • Diet
    • Nutrients
    • Interior dust
    • WQS


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