Biological Trace Element Research

, Volume 151, Issue 3, pp 335–343 | Cite as

Hair Minerals and Metabolic Health in Belgian Elementary School Girls

  • Barbara VanaelstEmail author
  • Inge Huybrechts
  • Nathalie Michels
  • Maria R Flórez
  • Maite Aramendía
  • Lieve Balcaen
  • Martin Resano
  • Frank Vanhaecke
  • Karin Bammann
  • Silvia Bel-Serrat
  • Stefaan De Henauw


Literature has repeatedly shown a relationship between hair minerals and metabolic health, although studies in children are currently lacking. This study aims to investigate hair levels of calcium (Ca), copper (Cu), magnesium (Mg), iron (Fe), phosphorus (P), and zinc (Zn) and their association with (1) overweight/obesity and (2) metabolic health in Flemish elementary school girls between 5 and 10 years old. Two hundred eighteen girls participated in this study as part of the baseline ChiBS project. Children were subjected to physical examinations, blood and hair sampling. Hair minerals were quantitatively determined via inductively coupled plasma–mass spectrometry after microwave-assisted acid digestion. Body mass index (BMI) and body fat percentage (BF%) were studied as anthropometric parameters, and a metabolic score (including systolic and diastolic blood pressure, insulin resistance and non-high-density lipoprotein (non-HDL) cholesterol as parameters) was calculated, with higher scores indicating a more unhealthy metabolic profile. Hair Ca, Ca/Mg, and Ca/P positively correlated with the anthropometric parameters. An inverse correlation was observed between Ca, Mg, and Ca/P in hair and the metabolic score. Inverse correlations were also observed for individual metabolic parameters (i.e., diastolic blood pressure, homeostasis model assessment for insulin resistance, non-HDL cholesterol). In particular, girls with a total number of three or more metabolic parameters above the age-specific 75th percentile showed significantly reduced hair Ca, Mg, and Ca/P concentrations. This study showed reduced hair mineral concentrations in young girls with a more unhealthy metabolic profile. Positive associations were observed between some minerals and BMI and BF%.


Hair Essential minerals Body composition Metabolic health 



The project was financed by the European Community within the Sixth RTD Framework Program Contract No. 016181 (FOOD) and the research council of Ghent University (Bijzonder Onderzoeksfonds). Barbara Vanaelst, Lieve Balcaen, and Maite Aramendia are financially supported by the Research Foundation—Flanders (grant nos. 1.1.894.11.N.00,, and, respectively). Nathalie Michels is financially supported by the research council of Ghent University (Bijzonder onderzoeksfonds). María R. Flórez is financially supported by Gent University (project BOF 01SB0309) and the Spanish Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness (project CTQ2009-08606). The authors wish to thank the ChiBS children and their parents who generously volunteered and participated in this project.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Barbara Vanaelst
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Inge Huybrechts
    • 1
    • 3
  • Nathalie Michels
    • 1
  • Maria R Flórez
    • 4
    • 5
  • Maite Aramendía
    • 2
    • 6
  • Lieve Balcaen
    • 2
    • 4
  • Martin Resano
    • 5
  • Frank Vanhaecke
    • 4
  • Karin Bammann
    • 7
    • 8
  • Silvia Bel-Serrat
    • 9
  • Stefaan De Henauw
    • 1
    • 10
  1. 1.Department of Public HealthGhent UniversityGhentBelgium
  2. 2.Research Foundation—Flanders (FWO)BrusselsBelgium
  3. 3.Dietary Exposure Assessment GroupInternational Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC/WHO)LyonFrance
  4. 4.Department of Analytical ChemistryGhent UniversityGhentBelgium
  5. 5.Department of Analytical ChemistryUniversity of ZaragozaZaragozaSpain
  6. 6.Centro Universitario de la Defensa—Academia General Militar de ZaragozaZaragozaSpain
  7. 7.Institute for Public Health and Nursing ResearchUniversity of BremenBremenGermany
  8. 8.BIPS Institute for Epidemiology and Prevention ResearchBremenGermany
  9. 9.GENUD (Growth, Exercise, Nutrition and Development) Research GroupUniversity of ZaragozaZaragozaSpain
  10. 10.Department of Health Sciences, VesaliusUniversity College GhentGhentBelgium

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