Obesity + Lead Exposure, Bad for the Bones

Apr. 23, 2015

The combination of lead exposure and a high-fat diet are particularly hard on the bones and could result in a higher risk of osteoporosis, according to a URMC study.

skeletonThe research was conducted in mice but supports other data that links high lead exposure to bone problems in young people. Because lead exposure often occurs in early childhood and usually happens in tandem with other risk factors for poor health, the URMC researchers sought to explore whether a high-fat diet and lead shared a biological mechanism related to bone development.

They found that, indeed, the two factors together altered a stem cell pathway that is essential for bone growth. The study, led by Robert A. Mooney, Ph.D., Edward Puzas, Ph.D., and Eric Beier, Ph.D., a former graduate student at URMC, was published in Environmental Health Perspectives.

The group showed that although each factor alone reduced bone quality, the combined effects of a high-fat diet and lead exposure through drinking water had the most detrimental impact. The results point to a need to assess toxicants together with other risk factors relevant to disease.

Lead tends to accumulate in the spongy substance in bone and stays trapped in the body for years. Obesity also usually begins in childhood and can continue through life, researchers noted in the study.

To read the full paper, click here.