COMMENTS ON NUTRITION
(other than selenium)

Professor Zuberi,  
Dr Nambiar

Professor Zuberi, Rajshahi University

The village people in Bangladesh are readily affected by arsenic toxicity from the contaminated ground water for many reasons. One is their poor health and nutritional status.  Arsenic consumed may be quickly excreted from the body through methylation (often termed as detoxification) in the body through mostly urine. But this methylation reaction needs methyl donors coming from food sources and it competes with normal metabolic processes.      Thus, if body system has enough supply of certain nutrient components like methionine, the toxic effects of arsenic are much reduced.   On the other hand, in malnourished bodies and those consuming poor diet, arsenic toxicity is rapidly developing and magnified, as in in case of the poor villagers of Bangladesh especially women, mothers, young rapidly growing children and physically active labourers.   It is also demonstrated in recent research that those living in developed countries consuming good food are not affected by arsenic toxicity like the people of the LDCs.   So arsenic-affected people in Bangladesh are being asked to consume more balanced and certain types of food like methionine-rich food and green vegetables.   There are certain indigenous plants and local vegetables which are rich in methionine and other relevant nutrients. Some go for Spirulina an algae.

Water consumption pattern are also asked to be changed. People are asked to drink water in small amounts at a time, with some food; and to go for arsenic-free water. This is in short our "food therapy" .

M.I Zuberi, Rajshahi University

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Dr Nambiar, India

My group in this laboratory is engaged in arsenic problem for the past 3 years. With the help of UNICEF, a quantitative Field Test Kit was developed and is going to be made available for use in the field. Details of this kit were posted earlier. Other areas on which we were working are :
1. Arsenic removal
2. Treatment for arsenicosis

Regarding the possible treatment for the arsenicosis, it was observed that treatment with ferrous sulfate tablets is effective. The ferrous sulfate is working on the following principle. Sulfate reductase bacteria present in the colon (which is present in our system), converts sulfate into sulfide (ferrous sulfide). The ferrous sulfide reduced by the bacteria has a spiral structure and has the capacity to adsorb heavy metals, including
arsenic. The arseno-pyrites, found as the mineral in the nature was produced by the same bacteria. At least in 4 cases, this treatment was effective to patients with acute arsenic poisoning. These patients were treated by this technique along with vitamins. All these patients recovered within a period of two months. It is worthwhile to study this course of treatment. It was observed that certain regions contaminated with high concentrations
of arsenic and iron in water, did not cause any problem when compared with the regions where arsenic alone was present in the drinking water. Treatment with ferrous sulfate probably could be an alternative treatment which could be inexpensive.

Dr. OGB Nambiar
National Chemical Laboratory, Pune - 8, India