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Am J Clin Nutr. 1995 Mar;61(3 Suppl):646S-650S. doi: 10.1093/ajcn/61.3.646S.

Nutrition and metal toxicity.

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National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, Research Triangle Park, NC 27707.


Lead, cadmium, and mercury are toxic metals that are not essential for nutrition. However, the toxic effects of these metals may be mediated or enhanced by interactions or deficiencies of nutritionally essential metals. Lead competes with calcium, inhibiting the release of neurotransmitters, and interferes with the regulation of cell metabolism by binding to second-messenger calcium receptors, blocking calcium transport by calcium channels and calcium-sodium ATP pumps, and by competing for calcium-binding protein sites and uptake by mitochondria. Dietary deficiencies of calcium, iron, and zinc enhance the effects of lead on cognitive and behavioral development. Iron deficiency increases the gastrointestinal absorption of cadmium, and cadmium competes with zinc for binding sites on metallothionein, which is important in the storage and transport of zinc during development. Selenium protects from mercury and methyl mercury toxicity by preventing damage from free radicals or by forming inactive selenium mercury complexes.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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