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UB study: Little evidence to back diet recommendations for lead

The recommendation that children with high blood lead levels eat foods rich in iron, calcium and vitamin C to possibly reduce toxicity lacks good scientific evidence, according to a University at Buffalo study.

“We don’t have the right evidence base to be making these recommendations,” Katarzyna Kordas, lead author of the paper published online in the Journal of Pediatrics, said in a statement.

“We need to be more up front with parents to say we don’t know whether this will work," said Kordas, an associate professor of epidemiology and environmental health.

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends eating foods rich in iron, calcium and vitamin C. But even its 2002 analysis of the research, much of it animal studies, questions the strength of the recommendation.

“Overall, though, it’s very vague, so it’s not surprising that there is some confusion out there,” Kordas said.

Kordas said her intent is not to criticize the CDC, which, she says, made its recommendation based on the evidence available in 2002 and when the guidelines were updated in 2012. Because of the way other elements interact with and, in some cases, counteract lead, public health experts surmised that diets rich in these nutrients might help a person reduce their blood lead levels.

“It’s not that these recommendations are bad or that they won’t work. But if recommendations are being made based on diet or foods, there should be evidence backing that up, and the evidence is very limited. If the recommendation is that you should be eating iron-rich foods or red meat, there should be studies that have evaluated whether that will work. There is no such thing,” Kordas said.

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