University of California

Nutrition may influence toxicant susceptibility of children and elderly


Sheri Zidenberg-Cherr
Michelle R. Neyman
Krista Fechner
Jeanette Sutherlin
Margaret Johns
Cathi Lamp
Constance Garrett
Carl L. Keen

Authors Affiliations

S. Zidenberg-Cherr is Nutrition Science Specialist, Department of Nutrition, UC Davis; M.R. Neyman is Assistant Professor, California State University, Chico; K. Fechner is Technical Writer, International Microcomputer Software; J. Sutherlin is Nutrition, Family and Consumer Sciences Advisors, UC Cooperative Extension; M. Johns is Family and Consumer Sciences Advisors, UC Cooperative Extension; C. Lamp is Family and Consumer Sciences Advisors, UC Cooperative Extension; C. Garrett is Nutrition, Family and Consumer Sciences Advisors, UC Cooperative Extension; C.L. Keen is Chair and Professor, Department of Nutrition, UC Davis.

Publication Information

Hilgardia 54(5):19-25. DOI:10.3733/ca.v054n05p19. September 2000.

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Young children and elderly people are at great risk of poor nutrition. In a study of low- and high-income young children, we found that a large percentage of both groups, between 24% and 13%, had low intakes of calcium, iron and copper. Interestingly, the high-income children had greater deficiencies of several nutrients than the low-income children. Another study showed that many senior citizens consume diets providing less than two-thirds of the recommended dietary intakes of some essential vitamins and minerals. Further, animal experiments and human studies indicate that nutritional status can influence an individual's susceptibility to environmental toxicants including air pollutants, food contaminants, heavy metals and pesticides. For example, dietary antioxidants are known to aid in the metabolism of organophosphate pesticides; but low-income farmworkers and their children, who are at greater risk of pesticide exposure, often do not consume enough fruits and vegetables with these important nutrients. Likewise, children and adults with iron-deficiency anemia absorb more lead from their environments than those with adequate iron stores. Conversely, good nutrition at all life stages can decrease susceptibility to adverse effects of toxicants. Additional studies on the interactions between diet and chemical exposure in humans will be needed in the future.


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Zidenberg-Cherr S, Neyman M, Fechner K, Sutherlin J, Johns M, Lamp C, Garrett C, Keen C. 2000. Nutrition may influence toxicant susceptibility of children and elderly. Hilgardia 54(5):19-25. DOI:10.3733/ca.v054n05p19
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