Circulatory Levels of Toxic Metals (Aluminum, Cadmium, Mercury, Lead) in Patients with Alzheimer’s Disease: A Quantitative Meta-Analysis and Systematic Review


Journal of Alzheimer's Disease


Lin Xu, Wenchao Zhang, Xianchen Liu, Cuili Zhanga, Pin Wang and Xiulan Zhao


Background: Environmental exposure to toxic metals has been postulated to play a role in the pathophysiological processes of Alzheimer’s disease (AD). However, the circulatory levels of toxic metals in AD patients are not consistent in previous studies.

Objective: To systematically assess levels of toxic metals (aluminum, mercury, cadmium, lead) in the circulation (blood, serum/plasma) of AD patients and controls.

Methods: PubMed, Web of Science, Science Direct, Cochrane Library, and the China National Knowledge Infrastructure (CNKI) were systematically searched to identify studies published up to January 1, 2017. Meta-analyses were performed using random-effects models and the pooled standardized mean difference (SMD) were reported with 95% confidence intervals (CI).

Results: We identified 17, 7, 8, and 10 studies for aluminum, mercury, cadmium, and lead, respectively. Meta-analyses showed significantly elevated circulatory levels of aluminum (SMD = 1.08, 95% CI: 0.66, 1.50), mercury (SMD = 0.55, 95% CI, 0.15, 0.95), and cadmium (SMD = 0.62, 95% CI: 0.12, 1.11), whereas lower levels of lead (SMD = –0.23, 95% CI: –0.38, –0.07) in AD patients than in controls. Publication bias was only observed for aluminum studies, but the “trim and fill” analysis showed that the publication bias did not alter the direction of the effect. Sensitivity analyses showed no studies from the pooled analysis changed the results.

Conclusion: Compared to controls, circulatory levels of aluminum, mercury, and cadmium are significantly higher but the levels of lead were reduced in AD patients. These findings suggest that elevated aluminum, mercury, and cadmium in the circulation, especially in serum may play a role in the progression of AD.


December 4, 2017

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