LEAD Action News
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)
The Journal of The LEAD (Lead Education and Abatement Design) Group Inc.

Search this site
Search tips 
What's New

About Us
bell system lead poisoning
Contact Us
Council Lead Project
Library-Fact Sheets
Home Page
Media Releases
Referral Lists
Site Map
Slide Shows-Films
Useful Links

Visitor Number


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 www.lead.org.au/fs/Fact_sheet-Nutrients_that_reduce_lead_poisoning_June_2010.pdf

Copper deficiency can cause sideroblastic anaemia (the inability to incorporate iron into haemoglobin for red blood cells) as it is essential to iron transport inside the body, and according to some animal experiments may also affect lead-induced anaemia. On the other hand, animal studies have also indicated that high copper levels can exacerbate lead poisoning. But it should be noted that copper’s absorption is inhibited if is consumed with iron and zinc, and copper levels within the body are reduced by lead, cysteine and vitamin C. This may be a particular concern for pregnant women, as copper deficiencies have significant impacts on the unborn fetus. Copper levels are also reduced by iron deficiency.

On the whole, it would appear that an individual with significant lead exposure should seek to maintain good levels of copper in their diet, without aiming for high levels. Copper is found in quantity in unfiltered piped water, shellfish (oysters, clams) crustaceans (crab, lobster), liver (sheep, goose, ox, duck, calf, pig), yeast, seeds (sesame), tea, cocoa, nuts (cashew, brazil, hazel, walnuts, pasticcio, pecan, pine), wheat bran and curry powder. Consumption of up to 10mg a day is considered safe, but could lead to copper accumulation over the longer term. Up to 9mg can be present from food and unfiltered water (contributing up to 6mg) so any supplementation should be handled with care, particularly above 1mg a day for prolonged periods. Zinc can completely block copper absorption while iron and low stomach acidity interfere with copper absorption. On the other hand, copper levels are reduced by iron and zinc deficiency. Soybean protein and fructose strongly inhibit copper absorption but phytates have minimal impact.

  1. Copper Jane Higdon The Linus Pauling Institute http://lpi.oregonstate.edu/infocenter/minerals/copper/
  2. Protective Value of Dietary Copper and Iron against Some Toxic Effects of Lead in Rats David S. Klauder and Harold G. Petering Environmental Health Perspectives Vol. 12, pp. 77-80, 1975 www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1475026/pdf/envhper00496-0079.pdf [A dated but interesting article that found that iron in combination with copper (now known to be essential in iron transport) could modify lead-induced anemia and protect the kidneys]
  3. Influence of Dietary Copper on Lead Toxicity in the Young Male Rat Florian L. Cerklewski And Richard M. Forbes J. Nutr. 107: 143-146, 1977. http://jn.nutrition.org/cgi/reprint/107/1/143 [Found that copper accentuated the impact of lead toxicity]
  4. Iron and copper, and their interactions during development Lorraine Gambling, Henriette S. Andersen and Harry J. McArdle Biochemical Society Transactions (2008) Volume 36, part 6 www.biochemsoctrans.org/bst/036/1258/0361258.pdf  [A short summary of the impacts of iron and copper deficiency during pregnancy; important since both the presence of lead and nutrients used to counter it can reduce copper levels]
  5. Copper absorption and bioavailability Raul A Wapnir Am J Clin Nutr 1998;67(suppl):1054S-60S www.ajcn.org/cgi/reprint/67/5/1054S.pdf [Good outline of factors affecting copper absorption]

Contents | Previous Item | Next Item | Disclaimer

About Us | bell system lead poisoning | Contact Us | Council LEAD Project | egroups | Library - Fact Sheets | Home Page | Media Releases
| Q & A | Referral lists | Reports | Site Map | Slide Shows - Films | Subscription | Useful Links |  Search this Site
Privacy Policy | Disclaimer
Last Updated 19 January 2012
Copyright © The LEAD Group Inc. 1991- 2012
PO Box 161 Summer Hill NSW 2130 Australia
Phone: +61 2 9716 0014