Children, Allergies, the Microbiome and Heavy Metals

For your reading pleasure (NOT), two distressing pieces of research.

New research out of Ohio State University is truly horrifying.[i]  These scientists have traced a link between low dose exposure to the heavy metal, cadmium, and the activation of the antibodies that cause allergies. The link consists of – you guessed it – gut bacteria.  After exposure to cadmium, certain gut bacteria produce an enzyme that degrades vitamin D, leading to a condition that mimics vitamin D deficiency. In mice that have been sensitized to a specific antigen, exposure to ingested cadmium leads to high levels of antibodies against the allergen, as well as inflammatory immune cells that lead to respiratory symptoms.  Prior epidemiology has already shown an association between vitamin D deficiency in children and an increased risk of asthma and allergy.

But wait – it gets so much worse.  A Congressional report, released on September 29th, broke the news: cadmium is being found commonly in children now, and it’s from a horrific source: baby food, if you can believe it.  And like that’s not bad enough, other heavy metals have also been found in baby foods.  Cadmium does not degrade easily, and it has a half-life in the human body of 15 years; thus, if you are exposed to even low doses, it accumulates.

The scientists exposed mice to a very low dose of cadmium for 28 days.  The mice were genetically predisposed to develop egg allergy.  After cadmium exposure, the mice were exposed to egg protein and sure enough, the mice developed a heightened allergic response.  They then did the same to germ-free mice:  without microbiomes, the mice did not develop allergy.  Thus, they were able to conclude that gut bacteria were the source of the issue. The lead researcher states that this is the main finding:  …after exposure to subtoxic doses of heavy metals, the pollutants remain in soft tissue, including in the gut. And what they do is make cells more reactive. In the gut, specifically, bacteria will make certain cells produce more of the enzyme that degrades vitamin D…”  (Honestly though:  what on earth is a subtoxic dose of heavy metal?!  They are absolutely toxic to us!)

These Ohio State researchers propose two possible ways of dealing with the situation: one is to supplement with vitamin D.  However, that will only help before cadmium has a chance to cause allergy issues.  The second idea is to find a way to change the offending bacterial enzymes that cause the allergic response.  Seems to me that ensuring that baby food is not contaminated with heavy metals should also make that to-do list.

And just when you think that I can’t make your day worse…I’ll drop this little pearl into this post as an FYI:

A paper came out of George Washington University last week that shows that those fast food chicken nuggets, burrirtos, and more, that people love so very much have been found to have potentially harmful levels of industrial chemicals, including phthalates (which are used to make plastics soft) and other plasticizers. [ii]  These chemicals are known to disrupt normal endocrine functioning.

And then we wonder why over a third of people on this earth are overweight, why allergies and asthma are at epidemic levels, and why the rates of  diseases that are ultimately due to inflammation (heart disease, many cancers, many mental health issues, etc.) are increasing exponentially.




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