Of all the things you don’t want in your body, the influenza virus or pathogens that can cause pneumonia are probably high on the list. For those aware of heavy metal poisoning, cadmium might be even higher. But put the two together, and you’ve got whole other level of “no thank you.”
Cadmium is a heavy metal that’s present in large quantities in cigarette smoke but can also be found in contaminated food, such as cereals and vegetables. It’s known to accumulate in human lung tissues, and is unfortunately very difficult to remove from the body. Even low levels can make it hard for the immune system and lungs to defend themselves against a pathogen. Researchers wanted to know if this would make it harder for people to survive illnesses that affected the lungs.
They looked at data from the U.S. National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, a representative sample of U.S. adults over 45 years of age to compare the mortality rates from influenza or pneumonia of people whose cadmium levels were on the lower end versus people whose cadmium levels were on the higher end.After adjusting for other factors that could influence the results, researchers found that people who had cadmium levels in the 80th percentile had a 15% greater risk of dying from these illnesses than those in with cadmium levels in the 20th percentile. This relationship remained even among never-smokers, highlighting the risk of background exposure. Separate studies have found that cadmium might worsen lung inflammation and impair immune function, which could explain the mortality outcomes the researchers found. As if having the flu isn’t bad enough.