Pro-vegetarian dietary patterns and essential and heavy metal exposure in children of 4-5-years from the INfancia y medio Ambiente cohort (INMA)

Alejandro Oncina-Cánovas*, Jesús Vioque, Gabriel Riutort-Mayol, Raquel Soler-Blasco, Amaia Irizar, Ziortza Barroeta, Ana Fernández-Somoano, Adonina Tardón, Martine Vrijheid, Mònica Guxens, Manus Carey, Caroline Meharg, Kathryn Ralphs, Coalain McCreanor, Andrew Meharg, Antonio J Signes-Pastor*

*Corresponding author for this work

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Dietary patterns provide a comprehensive assessment of food consumption, including essential nutrients and potential exposure to environmental contaminants. While pro-vegetarian (PVG) dietary patterns have shown health benefits in adults, their effects on children are less well studied. This study aims to explore the association between children's adherence to the most common PVG dietary patterns and their exposure to metals, assessed through urine concentration. In our study, we included a population of 723 children aged 4-5-years from the INfancia y Medio Ambiente (INMA) cohort in Spain. We calculated three predefined PVG dietary patterns, namely general (gPVG), healthful (hPVG), and unhealthful (uPVG), using dietary information collected through a validated Food Frequency Questionnaire. Urinary concentrations of various essential and heavy metals (Co, Cu, Zn, Se, Mo, Pb, and Cd) were measured using mass spectrometry. Additionally, urinary arsenic speciation, including arsenobetaine (AsB), dimethylarsinic acid (DMA), monomethylarsonic acid (MMA), and inorganic arsenic (iAs), was measured. The sum of urinary MMA and iAs was used to assess iAs exposure. We estimated primary (PMI) and secondary iAs methylation (SMI) indices. To explore the association between PVG dietary patterns in quintiles and metal exposure, we utilized multiple-adjusted linear regression models and the quantile g-computation approach. Compared with the lowest quintile, participants in the highest quintile of gPVG showed a 22.7% lower urinary Co (95% confidence interval (CI): -38.7; -1.98) and a 12.6% lower Se (95%CI: -22.9; -1.00) concentrations. Second quintile of adherence to hPVG was associated with a 51.7% lower urinary iAs + MMA concentrations (95%CI: -74.3; -8.61). Second quintile of adherence to an uPVG was associated with a 13.6% lower Se levels (95%CI: -22.9; -2.95) while the third quintile to this pattern was associated with 17.5% lower Mo concentrations (95%CI: -29.5; -2.95). The fourth quintile of adherence to gPVG was associated with a 68.5% higher PMI and a 53.7% lower SMI. Our study showed that adherence to a gPVG dietary pattern in childhood may modestly reduce the intakes of some essential metals such as Co and Se. Further investigations are warranted to explore any potential health implications.

Original languageEnglish
Article number114344
Number of pages10
JournalInternational Journal of Hygiene and Environmental Health
Early online date02 Mar 2024
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2024

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