Action News vol 10 no 2, June 2010, ISSN 1324-6011
Incorporating Lead Aware Times ( ISSN 1440-4966) and Lead Advisory Service News (ISSN 1440-0561)
The Journal of The LEAD (Lead Education and Abatement Design) Group Inc.
Nutrition to Fight Lead Poisoning
Robert J. Taylor, additional references sourced by Elizabeth O’Brien,
Edited by Anne Roberts,
Vitamin D (calciferol) has a mixed reputation: it increases the uptake of lead, calcium and iron. In different studies it is associated with both higher and lower lead levels. It may increase blood lead levels when dietary calcium and iron intake is inadequate. It is possible to speculate that good levels of vitamin D may reduce lead deposition in the bones if calcium, magnesium and phosphorus nutrition is adequate, but may release lead from bone if calcium, magnesium and phosphorus intake is inadequate due to increased bone resorption (the recycling of calcium and other minerals including lead from the bone to the bloodstream). Vitamin D is essential to the effective utilization of calcium for bone formation and significant deficiency can negate or even reverse some of the advantages of calcium supplementation. It also increases magnesium and phosphorus absorption but unfortunately calcium competes with phosphorus for absorption. Solid Vitamin D levels may help protect against H. pylori infections that reduce stomach acidity, in turn reducing iron, zinc, copper, calcium and vitamin B12 absorption.
Distortion of the vitamin D metabolism is one effect of lead toxicity, reducing the amount transformed into the form most useful to the human body (1,25-dihydroxycholecalciferol [(1,25(OH)2D)] ), though at moderate lead levels (less than 20 µg/Dl), this appears to have major impacts only when other nutrient intakes, notably calcium, are inadequate. Vitamin D is produced in the body from exposure to sunlight, but individuals who get insufficient sun exposure, always wear sunscreen when outdoors, or are dark skinned and living in temperate/boreal zones may need to obtain significant vitamin D from their diet. In the USA most milk, though not milk products (eg. cheese, yogurt), are fortified with vitamin D, and fortified dairy products are available in other countries. The primary source of vitamin D in unfortified food is fish, with wild fish tending to have higher levels of vitamin D and omega 3 than farmed fish, due to differing food consumption. Egg yolks and livers also contain smaller amounts of vitamin D, while for vegans mushrooms grown under ultraviolet light contain vitamin D levels similar to fish though this product has yet to become widely available. High levels of vitamin D supplementation can increase calcium deposition in soft tissues (hypercalcaemia) leading to renal and heart problems, so supplementation at more than 0.025 mg (I,000 IU) a day should only be undertaken with medical supervision, according to the UK Expert Group on Vitamins and Minerals. The risk of renal (kidney) stones may increase for some individuals at lower dosages (from around 400 IU), but on the whole vitamin D supplementation appears to lower risks of mortality.
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