How Eating Breakfast Helps Kids Stay Lead Free

Summary
The absorption of lead from the digestive tract has been shown to be more rapid during fasting. This study aimed to trace the association between regular intake of food and blood lead levels among children. Blood samples were collected from 1,344 children and the content of lead and other minerals was assessed. Meanwhile, the parent of each child completed a questionnaire regarding food intake. It was found that regular intake of breakfast was associated with lower blood lead levels and higher zinc levels.

Introduction
Even traces of lead intake could lead to significant deficits in intelligence. The absorption of lead in the body depends on age, food intake, and levels of certain other minerals like calcium and iron. Lead absorption from the digestive tract could be 10 times higher on an empty stomach. Additionally, the level of absorption is higher in children than in adults. The levels of other minerals in the body are known to influence blood lead levels. A study conducted on children aged newborn to 14 years in China during the year 2000 showed 8.1 microgram of lead per 100 ml of blood. Since no prior studies comparing breakfast consumption and levels of lead in children have been done, this study attempted to assess the effect of fasting on blood lead levels.

Methodology
* Around 1,656 children from Jintan, China were included in the study with prior consent from their parents. The parents had to fill in details in a questionnaire regarding the food habits of their children, mainly addressing skipped meals.
* Blood samples were collected from 1,344 children. Certain parents did not consent to the withdrawal of blood from their children.
* The blood was analyzed for levels of lead, iron, copper, zinc, calcium and magnesium.

Results
* It was found that 7 percent of the girls and 6 percent of the boys did not have breakfast regularly.
* Those consuming a regular breakfast had a lower average blood lead level of 6.1 microgram/100 ml. Those with irregular breakfast consumption had levels of 7.2 microgram/100 ml blood.
* Children consuming breakfast regularly had parents and grandparents with higher educational status and resided in suburban and urban localities.
* Higher levels of zinc were observed in children who had a regular breakfast.

Shortcomings
There were no details on environmental lead contamination and thus older children could have had more exposure. The details obtained from parents regarding their children’s food habits could have been biased. Details from grandparents could have been unreliable. Higher blood lead levels could have reduced appetite. This was not assessed in the study.

Conclusion
This study was aimed at linking fasting states with high absorption of lead from food. It pinpointed important factors such as the importance of breakfast, parental influence, and increasing levels of lead toxicity. Regular breakfast consumption could be a strategy to lower absorption of lead from food. Parents and grandparents strongly influence the habit of regular food consumption in children. The parents’ educational status also plays an important role. Thus, promoting the parents’ role in creating awareness about regular food consumption should be included in lead prevention programs. Regularly having breakfast could influence the cognitive and behavioral outcome of children by reducing lead absorption and helping provide the required calories.

For More Information:
Regular Breakfast and Blood Lead Levels among Preschool Children
Publication Journal: Environmental Health, April 2011
By Jianghong Liu; Linda McCauley; University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia and Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia

*FYI Living Lab Reports Are Summaries of the Original Research.