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Health & Pregnancy

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Low Calcium May Equal High Lead Levels in Pregnant Women


Hertz-Picciotto says the study suggests that women need to be getting above and beyond the recommended daily allowance of calcium during pregnancy to avoid rising lead levels. She says pregnant women should aim for a minimum of 2,000 mg of calcium per day, which is about 800 mg higher than current government recommendations.

Furthermore, women who get little calcium early in pregnancy may benefit from calcium supplements in addition to bulking up their diet with extra glasses of milk and other calcium-rich foods.

In the study, lead increased with each trimester due to the increasing demands on the body for calcium during pregnancy. Lead levels also increased with age.

A researcher who studies lead tells WebMD that the study is a practical reminder for women to pay particular attention to calcium when they're pregnant and make sure that they are meeting -- and exceeding -- the recommended amounts.

In addition, Howard Hu, MD, MPH, ScD, says women who think they have had lead exposures from work or other environmental sources like lead paint should consider seeing a specialist and have their blood lead levels tested.

But Hu, an associate professor of occupational medicine at the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, says that much more research is needed to determine how much of a problem low calcium and increased lead in the blood may be. To answer that question, his research group is planning to give calcium supplements to pregnant women to see if it makes a difference in their blood lead levels.

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