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Published in Print: June 23, 1999, as Calcium Can Cut Risk of Lead Poisoning

Calcium Can Cut Risk of Lead Poisoning

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Calcium Can Cut Risk
Of Lead Poisoning:
Children in large urban areas continue to be exposed to excessive amounts of lead, but an increase in calcium in their diets can help reduce their risk of lead poisoning, a study says.

Calcium decreases lead absorption by the body and thus reduces the risk of lead poisoning, according to the study. The findings appear in the June issue of Environmental Health Perspectives, a journal published by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.

Researchers surveyed 314 children ages 1 to 8 to determine their calcium intake. Most respondents were African-Americans or Hispanics living in the greater Newark, N.J., area--known as an area with significant sources of environmental lead.

The adequate intake of calcium is 500 mg for children ages 1 to 3 and 800 mg for children 4 to 8. Thirty-one percent of the 1- to 3-year-olds and 59 percent of the 4- to 8-year-olds studied had intakes below the target level.

"We were surprised that the inadequate intake is as extensive as it is," said John D. Bogden, a professor at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey and an author of the study, "Dietary Calcium Intakes of Urban Children at Risk for Lead Poisoning." The researchers were equally surprised to find that at least 20 percent of the respondents had very good calcium intakes. While exposure to lead is unavoidable in some urban areas, Mr. Bogden said, a higher calcium intake can better protect children from lead poisoning.

Fewer Risky Behaviors: Like their peers nationwide, high school students in large cities have cut back on sexual activities that put them at risk of contracting HIV, according to a recent report.

Researchers at the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta published their findings in a study called "Trends in HIV-related Sexual Risk Behaviors Among High School Students in Selected Cities from 1991 to 1997" in the June 4 Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

To determine whether the prevalence of HIV-related sexual-risk behaviors among high school students also has decreased in certain areas heavily affected by AIDS, the CDC analyzed data from youth surveys that were conducted in 1991, 1993, 1995, and 1997 in eight large city school districts: Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Fort Lauderdale, Fla., Jersey City, N.J., Miami, Philadelphia, and San Diego.

Students in all but one of the cities reported a significant decrease in at least one HIV-related sexual-risk behavior, the report says. The decrease in the percentage of urban students reporting sexual experiences and multiple sex partners parallels recent national trends in those health-risk behaviors. That contrasts with the increases seen in those behaviors during the 1970s and 1980s, the report says. In addition, sexually active students in the 1990s were more likely to use condoms.

Weight and the Heart: A new study underscores the risk of heart problems for overweight children and adolescents.

Researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Tulane Center for Cardiovascular Health at Tulane University in New Orleans reported their findings this month in the journal Pediatrics.

The study analyzed more than 9,100 5- to 17-year-olds who were examined in seven studies conducted between 1973 and 1994. Approximately 11 percent of those youngsters were considered overweight.

The results indicate that overweight children and adolescents were more likely to have a variety of cardiovascular risk factors. For example, the researchers found that overweight children were 2.4 times more likely to have an elevated level of total cholesterol; 2.4 times more likely to have elevated diastolic blood pressure; and 12.6 times more likely to have high insulin levels.

Because being overweight is associated with various potential health problems even among young children, it is possible that the successful prevention and treatment of obesity in childhood could reduce the adult incidence of cardiovascular disease, the report says.

--Adrienne D. Colesacoles@epe.org

Vol. 18, Issue 41, Page 15

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