Analysis of minerals and essential elements present in the hair may help identify children with cerebral palsy and clarify the link between the disorder and psychomotor delay or certain diseases, a study suggests.
The results, “A Case-Control Study of Essential and Toxic Trace Elements and Minerals in Hair of 0–4-Year-Old Children with Cerebral Palsy,” were published in the journal Biological Trace Element Research.
Several prenatal and at-birth factors are known to contribute to the onset of cerebral palsy. These include congenital abnormalities, intrauterine infections, or placental disorders. Genetics have also been suggested to play a role.
More recent data have shown that nutrition may have a significant impact on clinical features of cerebral palsy. Malnutrition is highly prevalent among children and teens with cerebral palsy, and is associated with motor and cognitive symptoms.
To date there is little information on nutrient and mineral intake by individuals with cerebral palsy. Studies have suggested that cerebral palsy patients have reduced blood levels of important nutritional elements, including iron, zinc, and magnesium. However, to date, results have been inconsistent.
A team of Russian researchers further explored the presence of essential and toxic trace elements, as well as mineral content, in the hair of children with cerebral palsy. With this approach, the team hoped to have a more detailed assessment of cerebral palsy incidence and its association with exposure to nutritional or potentially toxic elements.
“Hair is widely used as the substrate for monitoring of trace element status due to several advantages, including non-invasive sampling, high mineralization, and irreversible binding of trace elements to hair matrix,” the researchers stated.
The study enrolled 70 children with cerebral palsy and 70 age- and gender-matched healthy controls ages 0–4. All the participants had lived in Moscow since birth. This was taken into consideration as to avoid the potential impact of habitation area on hair trace element content.
For analysis, the children with cerebral palsy were divided into two groups: those younger or older than 2.
Overall, the amount of boron was more than two times lower in children with cerebral palsy as compared with the control group. Hair content of sodium, selenium, and vanadium levels were 21%, 12%, and 20% lower in cerebral palsy patients than in controls.
These differences were found to be age-dependent, with boron levels 40% and 48% lower among children younger and older than 2, respectively.
Difference in hair levels of other elements was more evident in the younger group of patients. Iron, iodine and vanadium were 16%, 46%, and 33% lower than those in the control age-matched group.
Only hair selenium content was lower in elder cerebral palsy children when compared to their respective control values.
No significant group differences in hair toxic metal and metalloid levels were observed between children with and without cerebral palsy.
Further analyses showed that only hair levels of aluminum and calcium were significantly associated with the presence of cerebral palsy, whereas hair magnesium, sodium, nickel, and selenium were characterized as significant negative predictors.
“The present findings demonstrate a significant alteration of essential trace element and mineral status in children with cerebral palsy,” which could be indicative of “increased risk of their systemic deficiency,” the researchers said.
Although the link between decreased hair trace element and mineral and cerebral palsy remains unclear, “deficiency of essential elements may at least partially contribute to severity of cognitive or psychomotor disturbances” in this population.
“Altered trace element metabolism may also provide an additional link between cerebral palsy and certain diseases … including diabetes, epilepsy, and osteoporosis,” the researchers said.
Additional studies are necessary to further explore the specific trace element and mineral metabolism in children with cerebral palsy using other types of biological samples, such as blood or urine, or biomarkers.