Iron fortified biscuits offer promise to fight lead poisoning

Harold Mandel's picture
Iron fortified biscuits

Researchers have shown that fortifying food with iron produces a marked decrease in blood lead concentration in kids who are exposed to high levels of the metal.

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Lead poisoning is a horrible condition which can cause serious problems with mental and physical development. Aggressive initiatives have been underway to determine the most effective ways to protect children and adults from lead poisoning. Iron supplements seem to offer hope for this initiative.

ETH Zurich has reported iron supplements which are added to biscuits can help achieve a signficiant decrease in the level of lead found in the blood of children who are living in regions which have a high exposure to lead.

Fortifying food with iron produces a marked decrease in blood lead concentration

Lead is an extremely toxic heavy metal. Infants, children and teens are particularly vulnerable to lead poisoning. Meanwhile Michael B. Zimmermann from the Laboratory of Human Nutrition has lead a research team which has shown that fortifying food with iron produces a marked decrease in blood lead concentration in kids who are exposed to high levels of this metal.

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In the study kids were given several white-flour biscuits daily for four and a half months. Other kids were given just placebo biscuits which didn't contain any additional iron. EDTA, which stands for ethylene diamine tetraacetic acid, develops stable complexes with iron. This aids the uptake of iron into the bloodstream from the intestines. The EDTA is not absorbed by itself. EDTA also binds to lead in the intestines, therefore lowering its absorption.

Biscuits which were fortified with iron really lowered the level of lead

Sodium iron EDTA has been used for fortification of iron in food for years. The compound has been approved as food additive E385 in emulsified sauces and foods which are preserved in tins and jars in Europe. The researchers were pleased to discover that biscuits which were fortified with iron really lowered the level of lead found in the blood.

Zimmerman says the finding that blood lead concentration can be lowered with just short intervention with iron has a great deal of significance for public health officials. There was actually a considerable decrease of lead levels in blood with iron fortified biscuits.

Damage to mental development from lead can not be reversed

This is very significant because the damage to mental development from lead can not be reversed. So iron fortification can be used to a actually prevent brain damage. In fact it appears iron supplementation may even provide fetuses which are in the womb with good protection against possible brain damage.

This study has been published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Lead is a very common neurotoxicant. With iron deficiency the absorption of lead may be increased. Iron fortification therefore offers a very promising strategy to help fight lead poisoning. Iron fortified biscuits offer a tasty way to help prevent lead poisoning.

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