Biological Trace Element Research

, Volume 153, Issue 1–3, pp 41–49 | Cite as

Cross-Sectional Relationship Between Chronic Stress and Mineral Concentrations in Hair of Elementary School Girls

  • Barbara VanaelstEmail author
  • Nathalie Michels
  • Inge Huybrechts
  • Els Clays
  • Maria R. Flórez
  • Lieve Balcaen
  • Martin Resano
  • Maite Aramendia
  • Frank Vanhaecke
  • Noellie Rivet
  • Jean-Sebastien Raul
  • Anne Lanfer
  • Stefaan De Henauw


Chronic stress exposure is associated with diverse negative health outcomes. It has been hypothesised that stress may also negatively affect the body's mineral status. This study investigates the association between chronic stress and long-term mineral concentrations of calcium (Ca), copper (Cu), iron (Fe), magnesium (Mg), phosphorus (P) and zinc (Zn) in scalp hair among elementary school girls. Complete information on child-reported stress estimates (Coddington Life Events Scale (CLES)), hair cortisone and hair mineral concentrations, and predefined confounders in the stress–mineral relationship (i.e. age, body mass index, physical activity, diet, hair colour and parental education) was provided cross-sectionally for 140 girls (5–10 years old). The relationship between childhood stress measures (predictor) and hair minerals (outcome) was studied using linear regression analysis, adjusted for the abovementioned confounders. Hair cortisone concentrations were inversely associated with hair mineral concentrations of Ca, Mg, Zn and the Ca/P ratio. Children at risk by life events (CLES) presented an elevated Ca/Mg ratio. These findings were persistent after adjustment for confounders. This study demonstrated an independent association between chronic stress measures and hair mineral levels in young girls, indicating the importance of physiological stress–mineral pathways independently from individual or behavioural factors. Findings need to be confirmed in a more heterogeneous population and on longitudinal basis. The precise mechanisms by which stress alters hair mineral levels should be further elucidated.


Hair Cortisone Life events Stress Mineral Child 



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 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Barbara Vanaelst
    • 1
    • 2
    • 10
    Email author
  • Nathalie Michels
    • 1
  • Inge Huybrechts
    • 1
    • 3
  • Els Clays
    • 1
  • Maria R. Flórez
    • 4
    • 5
  • Lieve Balcaen
    • 2
    • 4
  • Martin Resano
    • 5
  • Maite Aramendia
    • 2
    • 6
  • Frank Vanhaecke
    • 4
  • Noellie Rivet
    • 7
  • Jean-Sebastien Raul
    • 7
  • Anne Lanfer
    • 8
  • Stefaan De Henauw
    • 1
    • 9
  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)Lyon CEDEX 08France
  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.Department of Toxicology, Institute of Legal MedicineUniversity of StrasbourgStrasbourgFrance
  8. 8.BIPS Institute for Epidemiology and Prevention ResearchBremenGermany
  9. 9.Department of Health Sciences, VesaliusUniversity College GhentGhentBelgium
  10. 10.Department of Public Health, Ghent UniversityUniversity HospitalGhentBelgium

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