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Environ Res. 2010 Jul;110(5):497-504. doi: 10.1016/j.envres.2010.03.006. Epub 2010 Apr 8.

Low iron stores are related to higher blood concentrations of manganese, cobalt and cadmium in non-smoking, Norwegian women in the HUNT 2 study.

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Division of Environmental Medicine, Department of Food Safety and Nutrition, Norwegian Institute of Public Health, PO Box 4404 Nydalen, N-0403 Oslo, Norway.


Low iron (Fe) stores may influence absorption or transport of divalent metals in blood. To obtain more knowledge about such associations, the divalent metal ions cadmium (Cd), manganese (Mn), cobalt (Co), copper (Cu), zinc (Zn) and lead (Pb) and parameters of Fe metabolism (serum ferritin, haemoglobin (Hb) and transferrin) were investigated in 448 healthy, menstruating non-smoking women, age 20-55 years (mean 38 years), participating in the Norwegian HUNT 2 study. The study population was stratified for serum ferritin: 257 were iron-depleted (serum ferritin < 12 microg/L) and 84 had iron deficiency anaemia (serum ferritin < 12 microg/L and Hb < 120 g/L). The low ferritin group had increased blood concentrations of Mn, Co and Cd but normal concentrations of Cu, Zn and Pb. In multiple regression models, ferritin emerged as the main determinant of Mn, Co and Cd (p < 0.001), while no significant associations with Cu, Zn and Pb were found. Adjusted r(2) for the models were 0.28, 0.48 and 0.34, respectively. Strong positive associations between blood concentrations of Mn, Co and Cd were observed, also when controlled for their common association with ferritin. Apart from these associations, the models showed no significant interactions between the six divalent metals studied. Very mild anaemia (110 < or = Hb < 120 g/L) did not seem to have any effect independent of low ferritin. Approximately 26% of the women with iron deficiency anaemia had high concentrations of all of Mn, Co and Cd as opposed to 2.3% of iron-replete subjects. The results confirm that low serum ferritin may have an impact on body kinetics of certain divalent metal ions, but not all. Only a fraction of women with low iron status exhibited an increased blood concentration of divalent metals, providing indication of complexities in the body's handling of these metals.

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