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Regular Breakfast and Blood Lead Levels among Preschool Children

Jianghong Liu1*, Linda McCauley2, Charlene Compher1, Chonghuai Yan3, Xiaoming Shen3, Herbert Needleman4 and Jennifer A Pinto-Martin1

Author Affiliations

1 University of Pennsylvania, School of Nursing, 418 Curie Blvd., Room 426, Claire M. Fagin Hall, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19104-6096, USA

2 Emory University, Nell Hodgson School of Nursing, 1520 Clifton Rd NE # 402, Atlanta, GA 30322-4201, USA

3 Shanghai Jiaotong University School of Medicine, 1665 Kong Jiang Road, Shanghai 200092, China

4 University of Pittsburgh, UPMC, 200 Lothrop St., Pittsburgh, PA 15213-2582, USA

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Environmental Health 2011, 10:28  doi:10.1186/1476-069X-10-28

Published: 1 April 2011



Previous studies have shown that fasting increases lead absorption in the gastrointestinal tract of adults. Regular meals/snacks are recommended as a nutritional intervention for lead poisoning in children, but epidemiological evidence of links between fasting and blood lead levels (B-Pb) is rare. The purpose of this study was to examine the association between eating a regular breakfast and B-Pb among children using data from the China Jintan Child Cohort Study.


Parents completed a questionnaire regarding children's breakfast-eating habit (regular or not), demographics, and food frequency. Whole blood samples were collected from 1,344 children for the measurements of B-Pb and micronutrients (iron, copper, zinc, calcium, and magnesium). B-Pb and other measures were compared between children with and without regular breakfast. Linear regression modeling was used to evaluate the association between regular breakfast and log-transformed B-Pb. The association between regular breakfast and risk of lead poisoning (B-Pb≥10 μg/dL) was examined using logistic regression modeling.


Median B-Pb among children who ate breakfast regularly and those who did not eat breakfast regularly were 6.1 μg/dL and 7.2 μg/dL, respectively. Eating breakfast was also associated with greater zinc blood levels. Adjusting for other relevant factors, the linear regression model revealed that eating breakfast regularly was significantly associated with lower B-Pb (beta = -0.10 units of log-transformed B-Pb compared with children who did not eat breakfast regularly, p = 0.02).


The present study provides some initial human data supporting the notion that eating a regular breakfast might reduce B-Pb in young children. To our knowledge, this is the first human study exploring the association between breakfast frequency and B-Pb in young children.

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