Patterns and dietary determinants of essential and toxic elements in blood measured in mid-pregnancy: The Norwegian Environmental Biobank

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Background: Inadequate stores or intakes of essential minerals in pregnancy, or too high exposure to both toxic and essential elements, can have adverse effects on mother and child. The main aims of this study were to 1) describe the concentrations and patterns of essential and toxic elements measured in maternal whole blood during pregnancy; 2) identify dietary, lifestyle and sociodemographic determinants of element status; and 3) explore the impact of iron deficiency on blood element concentrations. Methods: This study is based on blood samples collected from 2982 women in gestational week 18 in The Norwegian Mother and Child Cohort study (MoBa) which were analyzed as part of the Norwegian Environmental Biobank. We derived blood element patterns by exploratory factor analysis, and associations between blood element patterns and diet were explored using sparse partial least squares (sPLS) regression. Results: Blood concentrations were determined for the essential elements (in the order of most abundant) Zn > Cu > Se > Mn > Mo > Co, and the toxic metals Pb > As > Hg > Cd > Tl. The concentrations were in ranges that were similar to or sometimes more favorable than in other pregnant and non-pregnant European women. We identified two blood element patterns; one including Zn, Se and Mn and another including Hg and As. For the Zn-Se-Mn pattern, use of multimineral supplements was the most important dietary determinant, while a high score in the Hg-As pattern was mainly determined by seafood consumption. Concentrations of Mn, Cd and Co were significantly higher in women with iron deficiency (plasma ferritin < 12 μg/L) than in women with plasma ferritin ≥ 12 μg/L. Conclusion: Our study illustrates complex relationships and coexistence of essential and toxic elements. Their potential interplay adds to the challenges of studies investigating health effects related to either diet or toxicants.


  • Ida Henriette Caspersen
  • Cathrine Thomsen
  • Line Småstuen Haug
  • Helle K. Knutsen
  • Anne Lise Brantsæter
  • Eleni Papadopoulou
  • Iris Erlund
  • Thomas Lundh
  • Jan Alexander
  • Helle Margrete Meltzer
Enheter & grupper
Externa organisationer
  • Norwegian Institute of Public Health
  • National Institute for Health and Welfare

Ämnesklassifikation (UKÄ) – OBLIGATORISK

  • Miljömedicin och yrkesmedicin


Sidor (från-till)299-308
Antal sidor10
TidskriftScience of the Total Environment
StatusPublished - 2019
Peer review utfördJa