Diet-MediterraneanDiet-NutritionHeart DiseaseStroke

Mercury exposure and the risk of cardiovascular disease

Exposure to methylmercury from eating fish is linked to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease.

Researchers in the US looked for a relationship between mercury exposure and coronary heart disease, stroke, or total cardiovascular disease.

First, the details.

  • Among 51,529 men and 121,700 women whose toenail clippings were stored there were 3427 people with cardiovascular disease (coronary heart disease and stroke).
  • They were compared to a control group.
  • Both groups were matched according to age, gender, race, and smoking status.
  • Toenail mercury and selenium concentrations were assessed with the use of neutron-activation analysis.
  • Other demographic characteristics, cardiovascular risk factors, fish consumption, and lifestyle habits were assessed.
  • Associations between mercury exposure and cardiovascular disease were evaluated.

And, the results.

  • Participants with higher mercury exposures did not have a higher risk of cardiovascular disease.
  • Findings were similar among participants with low selenium concentrations or low overall fish consumption.

The bottom line?

The authors concluded, “We found no evidence of any clinically relevant adverse effects of mercury exposure on coronary heart disease, stroke, or total cardiovascular disease in US adults at the exposure levels seen in this study.”

These results don’t apply to pregnant women. The FDA tells us, “For most people, the risk from mercury by eating fish and shellfish is not a health concern. Yet, some fish and shellfish contain higher levels of mercury that may harm an unborn baby or young child’s developing nervous system.”

3/27/11 19:47 JR

Hi, I’m JR

John Russo, Jr., PharmD, is president of The MedCom Resource, Inc. Previously, he was senior vice president of medical communications at, a complementary and alternative medicine website.