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Can Vitamin C Supplements Help with Lead Poisoning?

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“Even if a nutritional manipulation is proven effective in reducing blood lead levels, reliance on such an intervention places most of the burden for prevention on those most affected and least responsible for the underlying environmental causes of lead toxicity. Nutritional interventions, therefore, must never substitute for efforts to reduce lead exposure to safe levels. On the other hand, when used as an adjunct to environmental measures, some nutritional changes may prove to have benefits beyond any impact on lead toxicity.” For instance, consumption of vitamin C-rich meals might assist with “blood pressure, blood lipid profiles, and respiratory symptoms,” along with maybe influencing “lead toxicity through an influence on absorption of lead, elimination of lead, transport within the body, tissue binding, or secondary mechanisms of toxicity,” that’s, even simply serving to ameliorate among the injury. But what is that this based mostly on?

In 1939, a outstanding examine was revealed, entitled “Vitamin C treatment in lead poisoning,” during which 17 lead trade staff got 100 mg of vitamin C a day, the quantity present in one or two oranges, and “with practically all of them there was a marked gain in vigor, color of skin, cheerfulness, blood picture, appetite and ability to sleep well.” The 17 staff had been chosen as a result of they appeared to be in fairly unhealthy form and probably even had scurvy, so it’s no marvel a bit of vitamin C helped. But vitamin C is an antioxidant, and oxidation is “an important mechanism underlying lead toxicity,” so it’s conceivable that it might have mediated among the hurt. But, the vitamin C didn’t seem to only scale back the injury from the lead—it additionally decreased the lead itself. As you may see from 1:43 in my video Can Vitamin C Help with Lead Poisoning?, the quantity of lead in a painter’s urine over a interval of a month after beginning 200 mg of vitamin C a day exhibited a five-fold drop, suggesting he was absorbing much less of the lead into his physique. He was one in every of three painters researchers tried this on, and evidently all three painters’ ranges dropped. The researchers concluded that these “exposed to lead…should be advised to include in their diet plenty of such rich sources of vitamin C as tomatoes (fresh or canned), raw cabbage, oranges or grapefruit, raw spinach (or even cooked, in very little water), raw turnips, green bell peppers, cantaloupe, etc.”

Now, this drop in lead within the topics’ urine was seen with solely three painters, and the examine didn’t have a management group of painters who didn’t take vitamin C, so maybe everybody’s lead ranges would have dropped for another purpose or maybe it was only a coincidence. You don’t know…till you place it to the take a look at.

Those unique knowledge had been so compelling that others had been impressed to attempt to replicate them. I imply, if it really labored, if vitamin C may assist with lead poisoning, grapefruits may very well be handed out on the manufacturing facility door! The earlier examine didn’t have a very good management group, however the researchers weren’t going to make that very same mistake this time. In this examine, half of the group acquired 100 mg of vitamin C a day—not only for a month however for a 12 months—and the opposite group acquired nothing. The outcome? “Careful examine of a giant group of lead staff failed to disclose any impact of ascorbic acid vitamin C…on the lead focus within the blood…or urine” (emphasis added). There was no distinction of their bodily situation and no adjustments of their blood work, so “no reason has been found for recommending the use of ascorbic acid vitamin C to minimize effects of lead absorption.” What a disappointment. It regarded so promising!

Whenever I examine a subject, I attempt to learn the analysis chronologically so I can expertise the discoveries as they occurred all through historical past. At this level, although, I used to be so tempted to leap to a latest evaluate to see what had occurred within the intervening 74 years since that first examine was revealed, however I didn’t wish to spoiler alert! myself, so I saved studying the papers sequentially. There had been in vitro research the place researchers dripped antioxidants on lead uncovered cells and it appeared to assist, so that they jumped on the cantaloupe bandwagon, too, however these had been take a look at tube research.

The first inhabitants examine was revealed in 1999, and, as you may see at 4:02 in my video, researchers did discover that these with excessive vitamin C ranges of their blood tended to have decrease lead ranges. Youths with the best vitamin C ranges had a virtually 90 % decrease prevalence of elevated blood lead ranges in comparison with these with the bottom vitamin C ranges. Now, this was a cross-sectional examine, only a snapshot in time, so we don’t know if the vitamin C brought on a drop in lead or if maybe the lead brought on a drop in vitamin C. Lead is a pro-oxidant, so perhaps it ate up the vitamin C. And who has increased vitamin C ranges? Those who can afford to have increased vitamin C ranges and eat numerous vegatables and fruits. “It is also possible that higher ascorbic acid levels may represent healthier lifestyles or greater socio-economic status.” Indeed, perhaps decrease vitamin C ranges are only a proxy for being poor, and that’s the actual purpose for increased lead ranges.

There are numerous good causes to be eating extra vegatables and fruits, and we needs to be eating extra spinach regardless, however it will be good to know if vitamin C really helps with lead poisoning. And, to know that, we have to put it to the take a look at.

Unfortunately, many of the revealed interventions will not be very useful, with such titles as “Effects of dietary vitamin C supplementation on lead-treated sea cucumbers,….”  And, there’s a stunning variety of articles on the results of vitamin C supplementation on mouse testicles. Why? Because lead might impair male fertility. Indeed, lead staff seem to have a decreased chance of fathering youngsters, however this will likely partly be as a result of oxidative stress. In that case, how about giving an antioxidant, like vitamin C, and placing it to the take a look at(es)? No, I’m not speaking about rat testes or suggesting frog testes. Neither am I proposing crab testes. (I didn’t even know crabs had testicles!) Finally, right here’s one to debate: “Clinical relevance of vitamin C among lead-exposed infertile men.” A examine of human males, which I’ll cowl in Yellow Bell Peppers for Male Infertility and Lead Poisoning?.

I’m all the time conflicted about writing these sorts of blogs and producing movies like Can Vitamin C Help with Lead Poisoning?. I can think about some simply need “the answer,” however these with vested and business pursuits typically exploit that pure impulse. This is downside with science typically, however maybe notably in nutrition. When it involves one thing as life-or-death vital as what to feed ourselves and our households we shouldn’t simply comply with somebody’s opinions or beliefs on the matter. We ought to demand to see the science. That’s what I attempt to do: Present the obtainable knowledge as pretty and even-handedly as potential, and allow you to make up your personal thoughts. You can think about how simply somebody may cherry-pick only one or two research and present a distorted however compelling case for or in opposition to, on this case, vitamin C dietary supplements. That’s why I really feel it’s vital to present every examine of their historic context. Stay tuned for the thrilling conclusion in Yellow Bell Peppers for Male Infertility & Lead Poisoning?.


 For these of you who’re pondering, Why ought to I care about lead? I don’t eat paint chips or use leaded gasoline. Anyway, what’s the large deal?, take a look at my full sequence of lead movies for data on how we acquired into this mess and among the methods we are able to dig ourselves out:

  • How the Lead Paint Industry Got Away with It
  • Lead in Drinking Water
  • How the Leaded Gas Industry Got Away with It
  • “Normal” Blood Lead Levels Can Be Toxic
  • The Effects of Low-Level Lead Exposure in Adults
  • How to Lower Lead Levels with Diet: Thiamine, Fiber, Iron, Fat, Fasting?
  • How to Lower Lead Levels with Diet: Breakfast, Whole Grains, Milk, Tofu?
  • Best Foods for Lead Poisoning: Chlorella, Cilantro, Tomatoes, Moringa?
  • Best Food for Lead Poisoning: Garlic
  • Is Lipstick Safe Given the Lead Contamination?
  • Can Saunas Detoxify Lead from the Body?
  • How Much Lead Is in Organic Chicken Soup (Bone Broth)?
  • Lead in Calcium Supplements
  • Should Pregnant Women Take Calcium Supplements to Lower Lead Levels?
  • The Rise in Blood Lead Levels at Pregnancy and Menopause
  • Lead Contamination in Fish and Game
  • Lead Contamination in Hot Sauces

In health,

Michael Greger, M.D.

PS: If you haven’t but, you may subscribe to my free movies right here and watch my dwell shows:

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