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Pollutants in Food Causing Heightened Allergic Responses

NEW RESEARCH carried out in mice has demonstrated that inadvertent ingestion of low doses of the heavy metal cadmium can initiate high activation of antibodies, causing an allergic response. Exposure to cadmium causes overproduction of an enzyme that degrades vitamin D effectively creating conditions that mimic vitamin D deficiency.

Separate epidemiological research has demonstrated an association between children with vitamin D deficiency and high susceptibility to asthma and other allergic symptoms. Recent reports have also found dangerously high levels of toxic heavy metals, including cadmium, in several brands of baby food. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has listed cadmium among eight metals considered extremely toxic in small concentrations.

Researchers administered mice with a subtoxic dose of cadmium for 28 days. Mice treated were then exposed to allergens, with researchers finding that mice that drank the water had a stronger allergic reaction in the form of internal inflammatory actions and allergy symptoms.

“Our hypothesis was that cadmium would change the microbe population in the gut because we know that dysbiosis, or a change in the microbiota, drive allergic responses. And yes, giving those tiny, tiny doses of cadmium in the drinking water did change allergic sensitisation,” stated Prosper Boyaka, Professor and Chair of Veterinary Biosciences, Ohio State University, USA.

The effect was identified as coming from the gut through the utilisation of germ-free mice, which lack intestinal microbes. When exposed to oral cadmium these mice did not over-produce the antibody that caused allergic responses in control mice.

“That’s the main finding,” summarised Boyaka, “after exposure to subtoxic doses of heavy metals, the pollutants remain in the soft tissue, including gut. And what they do is make cells more reactive. In the gut, specifically, bacteria will make certain cells produce more of the enzymes that degrades vitamin D. That’s a connection we didn’t know before.”