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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 E is an essential nutrient but supplementation is not recommended for pregnant women (due to potential heart problems in the fetus) and individuals at risk of stroke, on anti-coagulant medication or with Vitamin K deficiency (due to anti-coagulant properties). There are 8 forms of Vitamin E, and only one form, (alpha-tocopherol) is retained in significant quantity within the body and is generally used in supplements but supplementation with one form can reduce levels of the other forms with unknown impacts.

In a similar manner to vitamin C a number of studies have found Vitamin E to be inversely associated with blood lead levels as well increasing the robustness of lead-impacted red blood cells. In addition, a number of studies in rats have found Vitamin C and E to be protective of lead-induced kidney, liver and brain damage particularly in conjunction with each other, partially because vitamin C can recycle Vitamin E into its active form. Vitamin C operates within body fluids, including cellular fluids, destroying oxidizing molecules, while vitamin E acts to protect structures such as cell membranes. Some animal studies have indicated an impact on indicators relating to hypertension, but impacts on hypertension have not been confirmed by human studies.Vitamin E, Tocopherol

Vitamin E: Tocopherol is found predominantly with vegetable oils. The following contain high levels: Back row: vegetable oils (wheat germ, sunflower, safflower, palm, linseed, peanut, corn, olive [pictured]), curry paste (or powder), marzipan, wheat germ. Front row: nuts(Almond, hazel, pine), margarine. Not Pictured: fish liver and oils (haddock, cod), fish roe

Vitamin E is found in good quantities in a wide range of nuts, seeds and vegetable oils. There is, however, some evidence that vitamin E supplementation can slightly reduce the average lifespan, though it may reduce risks in some subgroups, e.g. dialysis patients, some diabetic individuals, or smokers at least 66 years of age with high vitamin C levels. Consuming 814IU (560mg) of vitamin E a day was recommended as safe by the UK government’s Expert Group on Vitamins and Minerals, though considerable uncertainty exists on long- term impacts.

  1. Vitamin E Jane Higdon The Linus Pauling Institute http://lpi.oregonstate.edu/infocenter/vitamins/vitaminE/ [A good general summary]
  2. Vitamin E Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vitamin_E [also see related article tocopherol web link within article]
  3.  Graded Associations of Blood Lead and Urinary Cadmium Concentrations with Oxidative-Stress–Related Markers in the U.S. Population: Results from the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey Duk-Hee Lee, Ji-Sun Lim, Kyungeun Song, Yongchool Boo, and David R. Jacobs Jr Environmental Health Perspectives VOLUME 114 | NUMBER 3 | March 2006 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1392227/ [Finds that low vitamin E levels are associated with higher blood lead levels. Figure one allows a comparison of the impact of vitamin C and vitamin E levels on blood lead]
  4. Antioxidant effects of α tocopherol, ascorbic acid and l.-methionine on lead-induced oxidative stress to the liver, kidney and brain in rats R. C. Patra, D. Swarup and S. K. Dwivedi Toxicology Vol 162, No 2, 11 May 2001, Pages 81-88 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11337108 [Found that vitamin C, E and methionine reduced damage to these three organs, but that vitamin E had larger impacts on the brain and liver]
  5. Effect of treating lactating rats with lead acetate and its interaction with vitamin E or C on neurobehavior, development and some biochemical parameters in their pups A. A. Hassan and H. M. Jassim Iraqi Journal of Veterinary Sciences, Vol. 24, No. 1, 2010 (45-52) http://www.vetmedmosul.org/ijvs/media/10-1-9e.pdf [The conclusion has a good brief summary of the differing yet interconnected impacts of vitamin C and E as antioxidants.]
  6. Increased nitric oxide inactivation by reactive oxygen species in lead-induced hypertension Nosratola D Vaziri, Kaihui Liang and Yaoxian Ding Kidney International (1999) 56, 1492-1498 http://www.nature.com/ki/journal/v56/n4/pdf/4491060a.pdf [Demonstrates a role for vitamin E in reducing lead-induced hypertension, at least in rats. But see next entry]
  7. Does Increased Oxidative Stress Cause Hypertension? Ehud Grossman Diabetes Care 31 (Suppl. 2):S185–S189, 2008 http://care.diabetesjournals.org/content/31/Supplement_2/S185.full.pdf+html [A critical appraisal of the use of antioxidants to treat hypertension. Page S187 column 1 has a review of the disappointing studies of vitamin C and E supplementation and hypertension.]
  8. Decision Analysis Supports the Paradigm That Indiscriminate Supplementation of Vitamin E Does More Harm than Good Yedidya Dotan; Ilya Pinchuk; Dov Lichtenberg; Moshe Leshno Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis, and Vascular Biology. 2009;29:1304 http://atvb.ahajournals.org/content/29/9/1304.short [An examination of a range of studies that finds individuals who take supplemental vitamin E on average live 4 months less in life-quality adjusted terms].
  9. Vitamin E may increase and decrease mortality Harri Hemilä letter and reply by Lichtenberg American Heart Association at http://atvb.ahajournals.org/letters/#919 [Hemila quotes his own study of older smokers to show Vitamin E can be beneficial. Lichtenberg makes the point that the article he co-wrote (cited above) never disputed this, citing studies of renal and diabetic patients.]

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