The bioavailability of cadmium (Cd) from food is an important determinant of the potential risk of this toxic element. This review summarizes the effects of marginal deficiencies of the essential nutrients zinc (Zn), iron (Fe), and calcium (Ca) on the enhancement of absorption and organ accumulation and retention of dietary Cd in laboratory animals. These marginal deficiencies enhanced Cd absorption as much as ten-fold from diets containing low Cd concentrations similar to that consumed by some human populations, indicating that people who are nutritionally marginal with respect to Zn, Fe, and Ca are at higher risk of Cd disease than those who are nutritionally adequate. Results from these studies also suggest that the bioavailability of Cd is different for different food sources. This has implications for the design of food safety rules for Cd in that if the dietary source plays such a significant role in the risk of Cd, then different foods would require different Cd limits. Lastly, the importance of food-level exposures of Cd and other potentially toxic elements in the study of risk assessment are emphasized. Most foods contain low concentrations of Cd that are poorly absorbed, and it is neither relevant nor practical to use toxic doses of Cd in experimental diets to study food Cd risks. A more comprehensive understanding of the biochemistry involved in the bioavailability of Cd from foods would help resolve food safety questions and provide the support for a badly needed advance in international policies regarding Cd in crops and foods.
Science of The Total Environment (2008) 398 (1-3) 13-19 [doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2008.03.009]