Research Request: Is Lead Poisoning Associated With Obesity?

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As you all know, exposure to lead in infancy can lead to lower IQ, poor education outcomes, and higher rates of violent crime later in life. But another thought popped into my head this weekend. Among other things, lead does its work by weakening executive control in the brain, which is associated with things like impulse control and the ability to associate future effects from present actions. So aside from crime, what else might be affected by lead exposure?

How about obesity? This is just a guess on my part, but it strikes me that a child who loses impulse control and the ability to think about future consequences, might also be more likely to eat without thinking about the added weight down the road. This could easily lead to obesity later in life.

The only reason I’m mentioning this is that I have no way of testing it myself, so I thought I’d throw it out into the ether and see if anyone else has a bright idea for looking into this. Maybe NHANES data? I’m pretty sure a straight ecological study, of the kind that demonstrates the lead-crime link, wouldn’t do any good. But longitudinal data might. Anyone out there have any ideas?

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Today, reader support makes up about two-thirds of our budget, allows us to dig deep on stories that matter, and lets us keep our reporting free for everyone. If you value what you get from Mother Jones, please join us with a tax-deductible donation today so we can keep on doing the type of journalism 2020 demands.

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