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Haojie Zhang, Yuke Cui, Ruihua Dong, Wen Zhang, Shihan Chen, Heng Wan, Chi Chen, Yi Chen, Yuying Wang, Chunfang Zhu, Bo Chen, Ningjian Wang, and Yingli Lu

Background: Bone is thought to be the reservoir of the human lead burden, and vitamin D is associated with bone turnover. We aimed to explore whether exposure to lower 25-hydroxy vitamin D (25(OH)D) levels was associated with higher blood lead levels (BLLs) by increasing the bone turnover rate in individuals with type 2 diabetes.

Methods: A total of 4103 type 2 diabetic men and postmenopausal women in Shanghai, China, were enrolled in 2018. Their 25(OH)D, β-C-terminal telopeptide (β-CTX), N-MID osteocalcin and procollagen type 1 N-peptide (P1NP) levels were detected. Their BLLs were determined by atomic absorption spectrometry. Mediation analyses were performed to identify the possible role that bone turnover played in the underlying mechanisms.

Results: In both the men and postmenopausal women, all three bone turnover markers were inversely associated with 25(OH)D and positively associated with the BLL (all P<0.01) after adjusting for age, current smoking habits, metabolic parameters, duration of diabetes, vitamin D intake, and use of anti-osteoporosis medication. In the mediation analyses, none of the direct associations between 25(OH)D and BLL was significant for the three bone turnover markers, but all three bone turnover markers were found to be significant mediators of the indirect associations between 25(OH)D and BLL.

Conclusion: The association between vitamin D and BLL was fully mediated by bone turnover markers in type 2 diabetic patients (mediation effect). This finding suggested that vitamin D may protect against blood lead exposure from the bone reservoir by decreasing bone turnover in individuals with type 2 diabetes.