Many people get contact dermatitis when they use or touch products that contain nickel. In some cases the sensitivity of these people is such that the intake of foods rich in nickel can induce or aggravate their allergy. In Denmark, a study was carried out whose objective was to compare the effects produced by the ingestion of different amounts of nickel sulfate hexahydrate (0.3mg, 1mg, 4mg) in 40 people who were sensitive to nickel and in 20 people who were not. People who were previously diagnosed with contact dermatitis developed skin reactions at low doses. However, there was no reaction whatsoever in the group of 20 people not sensitive to nickel.
Nickel is a shiny metal with silver hues that is used in the manufacture of many products such as:
-Electric guitar strings, magnets and rechargeable batteries.
-To manufacture computer hard drives due to their magnetic properties.
-It is mixed with iron to form stainless steel which is used in cutlery, tools, surgical instruments, jewelry and watches, coins.
-The tin cans use nickel alloyed with other metals.
-Nickel is used to make alkaline batteries, as part of the electrodes.
-In chemistry, nickel is normally used as a catalyst for a hydrogenation reaction.
NICKEL AND THE ENVIRONMENT
Nickel can be released into the environment by the chimneys of companies that use nickel alloys or waste incineration plants; and also through tobacco. Nickel adheres to small dust particles that settle on the ground or in water, usually attached to iron or manganese particles. If the medium is acidic, the mobilization of nickel in the soil is favored and it facilitates its filtration into the groundwater. Nickel gets into food through the water used by plants.
A person can become sensitized to nickel when jewelry or other items containing nickel are in direct and prolonged contact with the skin. However, not all nickel-containing jewelry releases enough nickel to sensitize a person. Once a person has been sensitized to nickel, further contact with the metal can cause a reaction.
In Spain 15% of the population has a nickel allergy. It is the most common of the so-called ” contact allergies “. Its most characteristic symptoms are redness and swelling of the skin that has been in contact with products containing nickel. Sometimes vesicles can form that cause burning and itching. In the summer the symptoms are accentuated because with sweat and humidity nickel penetrates better in the body.
Some people who are sensitive to nickel react when they consume food or water that contains nickel. Nickel sensitivity is more common in women than men. This difference between men and women is believed to be due to increased exposure to nickel through jewelry and other metal items by women.
NICKEL IN FOODS
In the body it has various functions:
-Increases the fixation and catabolism of glucose in adipose tissue, and activates the transformation of glucose into glycogen.
-Catalyzes a series of enzymes that participate in the metabolism of carbohydrates and in obtaining energy.
-It interacts with iron; on an iron-deficient diet, symptoms are intensified by the presence of nickel. When the iron supply is adequate, nickel favors the use of iron.
Exact data on the daily needs of this trace element are not yet available. Nickel is not included in the food composition tables. There are some publications that collect the data obtained in specific studies. For example, the UK Total Diet study in 2009 (Food Standards Agency, 2009) or the France Total Diet study published in 2011.
In Spain, in 2007 a study was carried out in 467 young people aged 13-17 years whose objective was to know the intake of nickel through food. Their conclusions were that in the study sample the men ingested 161 micrograms daily and the women 159 micrograms. The ingestion of nickel in these young people does not entail any risk in principle for their health as long as they are not people already sensitized by this metal.
People allergic to nickel should take into account the Foods high in nickel. In addition, all those foods that come canned must be taken into account.
-Nickel is present in air, water and soil and in food.
-People with a contact allergy to nickel should be careful with the intake of foods rich in this metal because it can trigger or exacerbate their allergy.