Effects of weight loss and exercise on the distribution of lead and essential trace elements in rats with prior lead exposure

Shenggao Han, Wenjie Li, Uzma Jamil, Kyle Dargan, Michelle Orefice, Francis W. Kemp, John D. Bogden

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


We studied the effects of weight loss and non-weight-bearing exercise (swimming) on blood and organ lead and essential metal concentrations in rats with prior lead exposure. Nine-week-old female Sprague-Dawley rats (n = 37) received lead acetate in their drinking water for 2 weeks, followed by a 4-day latency period without lead exposure. Rats were then randomly assigned to one of six treatment groups: weight maintenance with ad libitum feeding, moderate weight loss with 20% food restriction, and substantial weight loss with 40% food restriction, either with or without swimming. Blood lead concentrations were measured weekly. The rats were euthanized after a 4-week period of food restriction, and the brain, liver, kidneys, quadriceps muscle, lumbar spinal column bones, and femur were harvested for analysis for lead, calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, and zinc using atomic absorption spectrophotometry. Both swimming and nonswimming rats fed restricted diets had consistently higher blood lead concentrations than the art libitum controls. Rats in the substantial weight loss group had higher organ lead concentrations than rats in the weight maintenance group. Rats in the moderate weight loss group had intermediate values. There were no significant differences in blood and organ lead concentrations between the swimming and nonswimming groups. Organ iron concentrations increased with weight loss, but those of the other metals studied did not. Weight loss also increased hematocrits and decreased bone density of the nonswimming rats. The response of lead stores to weight loss was similar to that of iron stores because both were conserved during food restriction in contrast to decreased stores of the other metals studied. It is possible that weight loss, especially rapid weight loss, could result in lead toxicity in people with a history of prior excessive lead exposure.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)657-662
Number of pages6
JournalEnvironmental health perspectives
Issue number8
StatePublished - 1999

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


  • Exercise
  • Food restriction
  • Iron
  • Lead
  • Rat
  • Swimming
  • Weight loss


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