Nickel | The Nutrition Source


Hypersensitivity to nickel is a major cause for allergic contact dermatitis, a skin irritation that creates an itchy rash. Sensitivity occurs when the skin’s surface has prolonged or repeated contact with nickel such as in jewelry. A food allergy to nickel, referred to as systemic contact dermatitis or SCD, is sometimes suspected if dermatitis is present without known contact with other allergens. However, following a nickel-free diet is impossible as it is found in trace amounts in a wide variety of commonly eaten foods and seafood. It is also very difficult to accurately measure nickel content in food due to regional variations in nickel content of soil and water, and it varies by plant species. [2] Another challenge causing conflicting measures of nickel is the different types of tests used to measure nickel in food. Sometimes nickel from food processing machines can leach into food. Cooking acidic foods (tomatoes, vinegar, citrus) in stainless-steel cookware can increase its nickel content. Generally, the foods most often found to contain nickel include legumes, soybeans, chocolate, nuts, sunflower seeds, oats, and granola. [3]

People who are iron-deficient may absorb more nickel from the diet, as iron and nickel compete for absorption in the body. Therefore to reduce nickel absorption, it has been suggested to eat iron-rich foods and vitamin C (which improves the absorption of iron) with meals.

Treating SCD with a low-nickel diet remains controversial. A Recommended Daily Allowance for nickel has not been set, so it is unclear what amount of dietary nickel may reduce symptoms of dermatitis. [4] Some studies estimate that people eat about 220-350 micrograms of nickel daily, so a restriction of less than 150 micrograms daily has been suggested for adults with suspected SCD, and less than 100 micrograms daily for children. The Low-Nickel Diet Scoring System with a points method was established to help those with SCD reduce dietary intake of nickel. [3] The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics reports that following a low-nickel diet for 4-6 weeks is adequate to determine if nickel is a cause for SCD. [5]





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