Toxic and essential metal interactions

Annu Rev Nutr. 1997;17:37-50. doi: 10.1146/annurev.nutr.17.1.37.


Cadmium, lead, mercury, and aluminum are toxic metals that may interact metabolically with nutritionally essential metals. Iron deficiency increases absorption of cadmium, lead, and aluminum. Lead interacts with calcium in the nervous system to impair cognitive development. Cadmium and aluminum interact with calcium in the skeletal system to produce osteodystrophies. Lead replaces zinc on heme enzymes and cadmium replaces zinc on metallothionein. Selenium protects from mercury and methylmercury toxicity. Aluminum interacts with calcium in bone and kidneys, resulting in aluminum osteodystrophy. Calcium deficiency along with low dietary magnesium may contribute to aluminum-induced degenerative nervous disease.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aluminum / pharmacology
  • Aluminum / poisoning
  • Animals
  • Cadmium / pharmacology
  • Cadmium Poisoning
  • Calcium / metabolism
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Iron Deficiencies
  • Lead / pharmacology
  • Lead Poisoning
  • Mercury / pharmacology
  • Mercury Poisoning
  • Metals / pharmacology*
  • Metals / poisoning*
  • Pregnancy


  • Metals
  • Cadmium
  • Lead
  • Aluminum
  • Mercury
  • Calcium