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Heavy Metals and the Risk of Arthritis

The etiology of arthritis was studied using US National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) data and suggested that elevated concentrations of trace elements (TE: Pb, Cd, and Cu) were associated with increased risk of arthritis.

TE concentrations for whole blood [cadmium (Cd), lead (Pb), mercury (Hg), selenium (Se), manganese (Mn)], serum [copper (Cu) and zinc (Zn)] were measured in NHANES adults.

Over time they found that levels of five TEs (Pb, Hg, Cd, Se, and Cu) in the arthritis group changed significantly; and some of these were significantly associated with a risk of arthritis:

  • Pb [OR (95% CI): 2.96 (2.18, 4.03), p< 0.001]
  • Cd [OR (95% CI): 2.28 (1.68, 3.11), P< 0.001]
  • Cu [OR (95% CI): 2.05 (1.53, 2.76), P-t < 0.001]
  • Subgroup analysis showed that Pb ions and Cd ions were significantly correlated with osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.
  • Hg or Se leveles were associated with alcohol intake and may be a protective factor for arthritis.

Another report using NHANES data suggests there may be a combined effect of heavy metals and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons on the development of arthritis, especially osteoarthritis, in the U.S.


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The author has no conflicts of interest to disclose related to this subject