Evaluation of the Dietary Intake of Cadmium, Lead and Mercury and Its Relationship with Bone Health among Postmenopausal Women in Spain

Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2017 May 26;14(6):564. doi: 10.3390/ijerph14060564.


Background: Heavy metals, such as lead, cadmium, and mercury, are absorbed through contaminated food sources and water. Few studies have investigated the extent to which dietary heavy metals are associated with low bone mineral density.

Aims: We aimed to characterize the dietary intake of the heavy metals lead, cadmium and mercury among healthy, non-smoking postmenopausal women in Spain. Furthermore, we sought to establish a putative relationship between bone health and the intake of these heavy metals in this population.

Study design: The daily intake of the heavy metals considered for the different food groups was calculated by accounting for food content and consumption in 281 postmenopausal women. Bone measurements were performed using a Quantitative Bone Ultrasound (QUS), a Dual-Energy X-ray Absorptiometry (DXA) and a Peripheral Quantitative Computed Tomography (pQCT).

Results: The average estimated dietary cadmium exposure among the 281 women studied was 29.87 μg/day (20.41-41.04) and 3.03 μg/kg body weight (b.w.; 2.17-4.40). Dietary lead exposure was 46.24 μg/day (38.11-54.77) and 4.87 μg/kg b.w. (4.00-6.14). The estimated dietary mercury exposure was 11.64 μg/day and 1.19 μg/kg b.w. (0.82-1.76). Participants were classified according to their heavy metal intake (above or below the respective medians). After further adjustment for potential confounding factors, no significant differences were found in all the measured parameters (p > 0.05).

Conclusions: We did not find associations between bone health and the dietary intake of three heavy metals in postmenopausal women. Dietary intake of the measured heavy metals were within the recommended values.

Keywords: diet records; dual X-ray absorptiometry; heavy metals; quantitative bone ultrasound; tomography.

MeSH terms

  • Absorptiometry, Photon
  • Bone Density*
  • Cadmium / analysis*
  • Diet*
  • Environmental Pollutants / analysis*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lead / analysis*
  • Mercury / analysis*
  • Middle Aged
  • Postmenopause
  • Spain


  • Environmental Pollutants
  • Cadmium
  • Lead
  • Mercury