AUSTRALIAN kids may be consuming high levels of potentially dangerous metals in their food, a study shows.
RESEARCHERS analysed 253 common supermarket foods and then used data on the average diet of children to model dietary metals exposure.
The results showed kids, especially those aged about eight, were estimated to have an elevated intake of cadmium, nickel and some other metals. Chief researcher Anna Callan of Edith Cowan University said the concentrations of metals in the individual foods themselves were generally low. But when combined in a modelled dietary intake, the results showed a high consumption of metals for children. “Young children eat more per unit body weight than older children do, so when it comes to dietary exposures they tend to have higher exposure,” Dr Callan said. Absorbed from the soil, cadmium is found in certain foods, particularly potatoes, grains and leafy greens. The heavy metal has been linked to decreased bone density and impaired kidney function in the long-term. The short-term effects of low cadmium intake are not known. The study shows for eight-year-olds, the estimated model cadmium intake on average was 0.4 micrograms per kilogram of body weight per day. This translates to 60 per cent of the World Health Organisation recommended guidelines, which is the one followed by Australia. “That’s the mean diet, so that means some children will have higher intake than that,” Dr Callan said. The European Food Safety Authority guideline for cadmium consumption is lower – at about 0.36 mcg/kg of body weight per day. The intake of nickel in the younger children was approaching a level at which there is some evidence that it can aggravate eczema in those who are susceptible, Dr Callan said. There isn’t a WHO recommendation for nickel, but the European Food Safety Authority recommends eight mcg/kg of body weight per day. “Our average dietary intake for young children is close to that, so that means there will be a lot of children below that but there will be some that are above it.” Dr Callan’s advice for concerned parents was to make sure their children were eating a wide variety of food. “Eating a variety of foods will help to minimise the risks of metals exposure.” Dr Callan said more research was needed to determine the potential health effects of dietary exposure to metals in children.