Plasma cadmium and zinc and their interrelationship in adult Nigerians: potential health implications

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Zinc (an essential trace element) and cadmium (a ubiquitous environmental pollutant with acclaimed toxicity) have been found to occur together in nature, with reported antagonism between the two elements. The present study aimed at determination of plasma levels of zinc (Zn) and cadmium (Cd) and their interrelationship in adult Nigerians. The series comprised adults (n=443) aged ≥18 yrs (mean ± SD 38.4±13.7 yrs), consisting of 117 males, 184 non-pregnant and 140 pregnant females. Sociodemographic data were collected by questionnaire while anthropometrics were determined using standard methods. Plasma Cd and Zn were determined by using an atomic absorption spectrophotometer. The mean plasma zinc and cadmium were 94.7±18.1 μg/dl and 0.150±0.548 μg/dl, respectively. Age, sex, pregnancy, and parity had no effect on either plasma Zn or Cd. Although educational level had no effect on plasma Zn, it had a significant effect on Cd; subjects possessing either secondary or tertiary education had significantly lower plasma Cd than subjects without formal education. Moreover, there seemed to be an inverse relationship between Cd and Zn, but this was not statistically significant (r=–0.089; p=0.061). Although plasma Zn was not related to BMI (r=0.037; p=0.432), Cd was significantly negatively correlated with BMI (r=–0.124; p=0.009). It may be concluded that adult Nigerians in Ebonyi State have elevated plasma levels of Cd, with apparent impact on the levels of plasma Zn. This has important public health implications considering the essential roles of Zn in the protection of Cd mediated adverse health effects. While food diversification is recommended to improve plasma Zn, efforts should be made to reduce exposure to Cd to mitigate partially its possible adverse effects.

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