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LEAD 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)
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  Research article

Nutrition to Fight Lead Poisoning

By Robert J. Taylor, additional references sourced by Elizabeth O’Brien,
Edited by Anne Roberts, Photos by Catherine Sweeny.
A Fact Sheet version of this Research Article can be found at

Phosphorus has been linked to blood lead levels in some studies but not consistently. This could relate to phosphorus as a key material for bone health, with phosphorus deficiency increasing bone resorption, even if other bone forming nutrients are present in adequate amounts. Phosphorus can reduce lead absorption from the intestine, particularly in conjunction with calcium, though calcium has more impact than phosphorus when each nutrient is administered alone. But phosphorus is oversupplied in most diets, with average US males consuming over twice their recommended daily intake, so there is probably little to be gained from increasing phosphorus intake unless your intake is unusually low.

 Very high phosphorus levels can interfere with calcium absorption and utilization leading to problems with bone formation and increasing calcium deposition in soft tissues, but this is usually only a problem if renal (kidney) function has been impaired, as phosphorus is readily excreted. High levels of calcium intake interfere with phosphorus absorption. Phosphorus is found in large quantities in dairy products, meat, fish, soft drinks, beans, nuts and whole grains. The UK Expert Group on Vitamins and minerals concluded that consuming 3,700 mg a day is safe for most individuals, with the primary risk being to individuals with impaired renal function, which can be lead-induced.

  1. Phosphorus Jane Higdon The Linus Pauling Institute http://lpi.oregonstate.edu/infocenter/minerals/phosphorus/ [A good overview of phosphorus as a nutrient, particularly explaining why concerns over high phosphate intake may be exaggerated.]

  2. Effect of calcium and phosphorus on the gastrointestinal absorption of 203Pb in man K. C. H. Blake and M. Mann Environmental Research Vol 30, No 1, Feb 1983, Pages 188-194 http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/0013935183901792 [Found that phosphorus inhibited lead absorption but not as well as calcium; the two minerals worked better in combination than alone]

  3. Determinants of the Blood Lead Level of US Women of Reproductive Age Lee, Mi-Gyung  Chun, Ock Kyoung  Sung, Wan O. Journal of the American College of Nutrition, Vol. 24, No. 1, 1–9 (2005) http://journals.lww.com/obgynsurvey/Abstract/2005/10000/Determinants_of_the_Blood_Lead_Level_of_U_S__Women.2.aspx [ A large study that found no linkage between blood lead levels and dietary phosphorus]

  4. Factors Associated With Iron Status Among WIC Infants and Toddlers in Rural West Virginia Cindy Fitch USDA December 2007 http://naldc.nal.usda.gov/download/32792/PDF  [Page 35 of the report notes a correlation between phosphorus intake and blood lead levels, but observes that almost all subjects have adequate calcium intake.]

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