Blood Lead, Anemia, and Short Stature Are Independently Associated with Cognitive Performance in Mexican School Children

Katarzyna Kordas, Patricia Lopez, Jorge L. Rosado, Gonzalo García Vargas, Javier Alatorre Rico, Dolores Ronquillo, Mariano E. Cebrián, Rebecca J. Stoltzfus

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71 Scopus citations


Lead exposure and nutritional factors are both associated with cognitive performance. Lead toxicity and nutritional status are also associated with each other. We examined whether nutritional status variables account for part or all of the association between cognitive performance and lead exposure. First-grade children (n = 724) ages 6-8 y, attending Mexican public schools located in the vicinity of a metal foundry were asked to participate and 602 enrolled in the study. Blood lead, iron status, anemia, anthropometry, and cognitive function were assessed. Results from 7 standardized tests are presented here. The mean blood lead concentration was 11.5 ± 6.1 μg/dL (0.56 ± 0.30 μmol/L) and 50% of the children had concentrations >10 μg/dL (0.48 μmol/L). The prevalence of mild anemia (<124 g/L) was low (10%) and stunting (<2 SD) was nonexistent (2.3%). In bivariate analyses, lead was negatively associated with 4 cognitive tests and was also inversely correlated with iron status, height-for-age Z scores, and head circumference. In multivariate models, the association between lead and cognitive performance was not strongly affected by nutritional variables, suggesting that the relation of lead to cognition is not explained by lead's relation to iron deficiency anemia or growth retardation. In multivariate models, hemoglobin concentration was also positively associated with Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test and Number Sequencing performance, whereas serum ferritin was negatively related to the Coding subscale of the Wechsler Intelligence Scales for Children-Revised Mexican Version (WISC-RM).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)363-371
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Nutrition
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2004

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Nutrition and Dietetics


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