This Heavy Metal May Be Linked to Adrenal Gland Dysfunction
Exposure to cadmium has been linked to cardiovascular and respiratory disease and certain cancers as well as worsening adrenal gland dysfunction. Cadmium exposure can occur as a result of smoking cigarettes, consuming produce grown in contaminated soil, living or working near an industrial site, or occasionally from imported goods made with materials containing the element. New research suggests cadmium exposure may even age your cells prematurely. Aging of cells can increase risk of diseases associated with age, including type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, kidney disease, and cancer.
Researchers from George Washington University examined blood and urine from nearly 7,000 adults who were enrolled in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey between 1999 and 2002. Ami Zota, assistant professor of environmental and occupational health, led the study.
The researchers purified the DNA in the blood cells and measured the telomeres using a method known as polymerase chain reaction. Telomeres are a little piece on the end of the chromosomes. Every time a cell divides, the telomeres on the chromosomes get a little shorter until the telomere is gone and the cell dies. As the telomeres shorten, the risk of age related diseases increases. The researchers also measured the amount of cadmium in the blood and urine samples and divided participants into four groups based on their cadmium concentrations.
The researchers discovered that the group with the highest concentrations of cadmium, which was still a very small amount, had telomeres that were 6% shorter than the group with the lowest concentrations. This translates to cells that appear to be an average of 11 years older than the individual’s chronological age.
The study also looked for a link between lead levels and telomere length, but no connection was found.
Zota explains that effects of cadmium were seen in people with levels a fraction of the World Health Organization levels of concern, suggesting that no amount of exposure to the heavy metal is safe.
Midwestern University associate professor of pharmacology Josh Edwards, who was not involved in this particular study, explains that cadmium has a half life of about 30 years in the kidneys, and stays in the body for decades, so continued or repeated exposure simply accumulates.
Epidemiologist Andrea Baccarelli, of the Harvard School of Public Health, also not part of the study, points out that it is unclear whether cadmium actually shortens the telomeres, or whether people with shorter telomeres are more likely to accumulate cadmium. Further study is needed to determine just what the relationship is between cadmium exposure and telomere length.
Dr. Lam’s Perspective on Adrenal Gland Dysfunction:
Cadmium, as a toxic heavy metal, must be cleaned from our body over time. This job falls to the liver, which is responsible for clearing most of the toxins and unwanted byproducts from our body. In the setting of adrenal fatigue, where there is adrenal gland dysfunction, all the body’s functions are slowed down, including the liver, and this slowdown retards our internal clearance.
The resulting toxin buildup, overload and congestion within the body amplifies the negative effects of these toxins and byproducts by allowing them to linger in the body for a longer period of time. The body’s day to day processes are also slowed to the point it is unable to go about its normal functions in a timely manner. When the body is such a state, even normally beneficial compounds can have unwanted effects. Powerful pharmacological agents such as thyroid replacement medications are unable to be processed and used in the intended fashion. They end up building up in the body, further compounding the congestion and slowdown, increasing the toxic load, and possibly triggering adrenal crashes.
For those with adrenal gland dysfunction, it is extra important to be careful and avoid toxins such as cadmium, as well as other heavy metals and even medicines that may be too strong for the body to handle. The combination of cadmium’s deleterious effect on cell aging plus the adrenal fatigue sufferer’s fragile physiology makes cadmium a crucially important toxin to avoid for a successful adrenal fatigue recovery.
Source: Zota AR, Needham BL, Blackburn EH, Lin J, Park SK, Rehkopf DH, Epel ES. “Associations of cadmium and lead exposure with leukocyte telomere length: findings from national health and nutrition examination survey, 1999-2002.” Am J Epidemiol. 2015 Jan 15;181(2):127-36.
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