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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

Vitamin B1 (Thiamine or Thiamin) is associated with lower level of blood lead and is comparable to vitamin C in this regard, though it is not as effective on all serum (blood) measures. In animal studies it increases lead excretion, particularly from the brain. From animal studies it appears it may even be able to partially repair some lead-induced brain damage.

 Good levels of thiamin are found in yeast, pork, whole grains, legumes (eg. beans, peas and lentils), nuts, oranges and milk. Thiamine absorption and utilization are reduced by alcohol consumption. Thiamine is a compulsory food additive for bread in Australia and many western countries, though organic bread is not fortified. No upper limit has generally been set for thiamine since toxicity appears to be extremely low, and negative side effects are rare (rarer than with vitamin C). Short-term side effects, such as headaches, nausea and weakness have occasionally occurred at supplemental doses above 5g but cease if dosages are reduced.

Vitamin B1 (Thiamine or Thiamin)

Vitamin B1: the above items are rich in thiamine Top row: nuts (cashew nuts pictured), milk, Milo, whole-grain biscuits (Vita-Wheat) Middle Row: lentils, orange, whole grain bread Bottom row: pork, snow peas, peas, beans.

  1. Thiamin Jane Higdon The Linus Pauling Institute http://lpi.oregonstate.edu/infocenter/vitamins/thiamin/ [a good overview of thiamine as a nutrient]
  2. Determinants of the Blood Lead Level of US Women of Reproductive Age Lee, Mi-Gyung; Chun, Ock Kyoung and Sung, Wan O. J Am College of Nutr, Vol. 24, No. 1, 1–9 (2005) www.jacn.org/cgi/reprint/24/1/1 [Finds that thiamine levels are linked to significantly lower blood lead levels, with individuals who consumed at least 1mg a day 7.5 times less likely to be in the top 10% of blood lead levels compared to those with minimal thiamine intake.]
  3. Lead Poisoning In Silver Refiners And Its Prevention S.K. Tandon, M.  Chatterjee,  A. Bhargava, V. Shukla  and  V. Behari Industrial Toxicology Research Centre, Lucknow-226001, India www.cprm.gov.br/pgagem/Manuscripts/tandonsk.htm [Finds that thiamine can reduce lead levels as effectively as vitamin C, but that Vitamin C has wider effects on blood lead toxicity, such as ALAD levels.]
  4. Selection of micronutrients used along with DMSA in the treatment of moderately lead-intoxicated mice Yingjun Liao, Fei Yu, Yaping Jin, Chunwei Lu, Gexin Li, Xuping Zhi, Li An and Jun Yang Arch Toxicol (2008) 82:37–43 [Contains a good brief overview of research that thiamine can increase lead excretion, on page 42; also mentions taurine and zinc research.]
  5. Selection of Nutrients for Prevention or Amelioration of Lead-Induced Learning and Memory Impairment in Rats Guangqin Fan, Chang Feng, Yu Li, C Wang, J Yan, W Li, J Feng, X Shi and Y Bi Annals of Occup Hygiene 2009 53(4):341-351 http://annhyg.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/content/abstract/53/4/341 [Indicates that thiamin may actually repair some lead damaged learning and memory functions.]
  6. Effect of Ascorbic Acid and Thiamine Supplementation at Different Concentrations on Lead Toxicity in Liver Chunhong Wang, Jiancheng Liang, Chunlian Zhang, Y Bi, X Shi And Q Shi Ann. Occup. Hyg., Vol. 51, No. 6, pp. 563–569, 2007 http://annhyg.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/reprint/51/6/563 [Demonstrates that, at least for the liver, optimum results from thiamine can be obtained from a moderate rather than very high dose. Note however, that being an animal study, the dose to body mass should not simply be copied for human consumption].
  7. Testing of chelating agents and vitamins against lead toxicity using mammalian cell cultures Anna B. Fischer, Cristine Hess, Tilo Neubauer and Thomas Eikmann Analyst, January 1998, Vol. 123 (55-58) www.rsc.org/delivery/_ArticleLinking/DisplayArticleForFree.cfm?doi=a705518h&
    [Finds that in cell cultures thiamin inhibits lead uptake on a cellular level and reduces cytotoxicity (cell toxicity).]

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