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Are Metals in Food Harming Your Child’s Behavior?


Metals and other elements in your child’s food could be contributing to aggressive or anti-social behavior in children, according to Neil Ward, professor of chemistry at the University of Surrey in the UK, and a lead researcher in the field.

metals in food

Metals in your child’s food could be causing aggressive, anti-social behavior, according to a leading researcher in the field.

While excessive amounts of metal in food can clearly be dangerous, strong evidence now shows that some trace elements may be toxic as well. And while some metals, such as copper, manganese and zinc, actually act as nutrients that can be beneficial for health, others have no known benefits. These potentially harmful metals include:

  • Arsenic
  • Cadmium
  • Lead
  • Mercury
  • Aluminum

These elements can actually act as “anti-nutrients,” which means they hinder the absorption of essential nutrients, a condition that can be particularly dangerous to children, according to Ward. For instance, he explains on

“Lead acts as an anti-nutrient, hindering the utilization of magnesium, zinc and vitamin B1. High lead levels have been linked to a reduction in IQ, negative classroom behavior ratings by teachers, juvenile delinquency and increased violent behavior.”

Aluminum has also been linked to anti-social behavior, Ward says.

How Do Metals Get Into Food, and Which Metals Should You Watch Out for?

Metals and other elements can become a part of food either naturally or due to farming or pollution from industry or car exhaust. Contamination can also occur during manufacturing and processing, or even be added to your food directly.

Some of the most toxic metals to be aware of are:

1. Lead: Lead is a pervasive toxin that can affect nearly every system in your body. Kids who are exposed to lead, even at low levels, may be more prone to commit violent crimes and suffer from anti-social behavior.

Nearly half a million U.S. children between the ages of 1 and 5 have blood lead levels greater than the CDC recommended level of 10 micrograms of lead per deciliter of blood, according to the CDC.

Children are exposed to lead most commonly through lead-based paint and lead-contaminated dust in worn-out buildings, however another route of exposure is food and drink stored in lead crystal or lead-glazed pottery and contaminated drinking water.

2. Cadmium: Cadmium accumulates in the body and can stay there for many years. The metal accumulates most often in the bones, liver and kidneys and can cause damage to these areas along with cancer, reproductive risks, brain damage, weakening of the immune system, prostate enlargement, behavioral problems and learning disabilities.

high fructose corn syrups

A recent study found mercury in nine out of 20 samples of commercial HFCS.

More than 90 percent of people's exposure to cadmium comes from food, according to the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR). Low levels are found in all foods, with shellfish, liver and kidney meats having the highest levels.

3. Mercury: The primary way humans are exposed to methylmercury, an organic form of mercury, is by eating fish. One of the primary health concerns is for children, pregnant and nursing women, or women who may become pregnant, as mercury can harm a developing child. One study, for instance, found neuropsychological deficiencies in children who had higher levels of mercury in their cord blood sample, including deficiencies in:

  • Language
  • Memory
  • Attention
  • Motor function
  • Visual-spatial functions

Mercury has also recently been found to contaminate many sources of high-fructose corn syrup.

How Can You Best Keep Metals Out of Your Diet?

Eat, and have your children eat, a healthy diet. According to the EPA, children who eat good diets absorb less lead, so this may potentially hold true for other metals as well.

alive in 5: raw gourmet meals in five minutes

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The staff at truly enjoys the recipes in Alive in 5: Raw Gourmet Meals in 5 Minutes to help keep their families eating healthy. Acclaimed raw chef Angela Elliott shows how to whip up mouth-watering lasagna, spaghetti marinara, stuffed mushrooms, broccoli in cheese sauce, apple pie, decadent whipped cream and strawberries, chocolate shake, and more -- all in about five minutes, with easy-to-find ingredients and just a blender or food processor.

Of course, the key to avoiding heavy metals in your foods lies to some extent in choosing your food with care -- although toxins are so ubiquitous nowadays that it may be impossible to avoid them completely.

As it stands, the best way to ensure that the food you eat is as safe and healthy as possible is to educate yourself about potential contaminants -- and avoid those foods. Eating organic produce, meats and other foods, or those you know have been grown locally with care, will also go a long way toward reducing your exposure to these toxins. If you don't have access to organic foods, you can reduce your exposure to one type of toxin, pesticides, by avoiding the most-contaminated produce listed in this article.

If you’re worried that you may already have accumulated metals in your body, certain supplements such as chlorella (a type of green algae) and green or red clay may help you to detoxify.

Recommended Reading

Six Foods that are Surprisingly High in Toxins

New Plants Being Developed That Eat Toxins and Cleanse Polluted Soil ... But What are the Risks?

Sources March 25, 2009

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