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Print version ISSN 0120-4157


FIGUEROA, Roger et al. Socioeconomic status, eating patterns, and heavy metals exposure in women of childbearing age in Cali, Colombia. Biomédica [online]. 2017, vol.37, n.3, pp.341-352. ISSN 0120-4157.


Global increase in food and water pollution is associated with health risk, which depends on the concentration, the dose, and the exposure time. This has raised concerns about the possible long-term effects of chronic exposure to low concentrations of heavy metals, such as lead, cadmium and mercury.


Toexplore the relationship among socioeconomic status, eating patterns, and exposure to heavy metals among a population of women in Cali, Colombia.

Materials and methods:

A total of 233 non-pregnant women of childbearing age living in the Aguablanca district of Cali, Colombia, were enrolled in the study. We gathered sociodemographic data, as well as information on housing conditions, exposure to heavy metals, frequency of food intake, and anthropometric measurements. Samples of lettuce, cabbage and fish (tilapia and butterfish) were collected to determine lead, cadmium, and mercury concentrations. Descriptive and multiple correspondence analyses were performed to establish eating patterns.


Fish was served in each of the three main meals of the day, with a bigger serving at lunch time. Cadmium was found in three samples of butterfish at levels below the acceptable. Of those who ate fish more than once a week, 11.1% bought the product at a cadmium-positive store. The multiple correspondence analysis showed a positive relationship between being black and consuming butterfish and tilapia more than once per week.


The findings showed that the studied population had access to heavy metal-contaminated food, which combined with the women's cultural eating patterns, socioeconomic status, and metabolic characteristics led to a greater vulnerability to the effects of heavy metals exposure.

Keywords : Heavy, metals; feeding behavior; social class; environmental exposure; bioaccumulation; ethnicity and health; fishes.

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