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Experts Tout Nutrition as an Important Lead-Fighter

Foods high in Vitamin C can help mitigate lead absorption. (Pixabay)
Foods high in Vitamin C can help mitigate lead absorption. (Pixabay)
April 27, 2016

FLINT, Mich. - Many Flint residents are sticking to bottled water or only drinking filtered water to avoid lead that leached into the city's water system. But federal health leaders say the foods they choose to eat also can make a difference.

Dr. Katie Wilson, deputy undersecretary for the U.S. Department of Agriculture's food and nutrition service, spent time on Tuesday along with other health experts at the Flint Farmers Market. She said they spoke with residents and local leaders about how better nutrition can help fight lead poisoning.

"Lead poisoning is much more drastic when you have an empty stomach," she said. "So, eating small meals throughout the day to keep your stomach full is really a good practice to use. We also know that iron, calcium and vitamin C help mitigate some of that lead poisoning as well."

The USDA is working with farmers' markets, community organizations and local USDA program providers to offer nutritional education for residents. A recent grant also helped expand the "Double Up Food Bucks" program that increases access to fresh, local foods from farmers' markets for families participating in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

The Michigan Nutrition Task Force is working with schools and child-care providers to ensure meals served under USDA programs include lead-mitigating nutrients. Wilson said these programs also are offering tips to help families prepare healthy meals.

"We need parents and guardians to encourage those children to consume the fruits and vegetables that have those nutrients, consume dairy products high in calcium," she said, "so that we do that mitigation to the best ability that we have."

While at school, Wilson said, Flint students also can get free produce through the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program, which was expanded to all city schools earlier this year.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - MI