Background: Cadmium (Cd), lead (Pb) and arsenic (As) are common environmental contaminants that have been associated with lower birthweight. Although some essential metals may mitigate exposure, data are inconsistent. This study sought to evaluate the relationship between toxic metals, nutrient combinations and birthweight among 275 mother-child pairs. Methods: Non-essential metals, Cd, Pb, As, and essential metals, iron (Fe), zinc (Zn), selenium (Se), copper (Cu), calcium (Ca), magnesium (Mg), and manganese (Mn) were measured in maternal whole blood obtained during the first trimester using inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry. Folate concentrations were measured by microbial assay. Birthweight was obtained from medical records. We used quantile regression to evaluate the association between toxic metals and nutrients due to their underlying wedge-shaped relationship. Ordinary linear regression was used to evaluate associations between birth weight and toxic metals. Results: After multivariate adjustment, the negative association between Pb or Cd and a combination of Fe, Se, Ca and folate was robust, persistent and dose-dependent (p < 0.05). However, a combination of Zn, Cu, Mn and Mg was positively associated with Pb and Cd levels. While prenatal blood Cd and Pb were also associated with lower birthweight. Fe, Se, Ca and folate did not modify these associations. Conclusion: Small sample size and cross-sectional design notwithstanding, the robust and persistent negative associations between some, but not all, nutrient combinations with these ubiquitous environmental contaminants suggest that only some recommended nutrient combinations may mitigate toxic metal exposure in chronically exposed populations. Larger longitudinal studies are required to confirm these findings.
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