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J Environ Public Health. 2012;2012:849305. doi: 10.1155/2012/849305. Epub 2012 Jan 12.

Relationship between RBC mercury levels and serum n3 polyunsaturated fatty acid concentrations among Japanese men and women.

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  • 1Department of Environmental Health, University of Occupational and Environmental Health, 1-1 Iseigaoka, Yahatanishi-ku, Kitakyusyu 807-8555, Japan.



To evaluate potential health risk and benefits of fish consumption, the association of fish consumption with total mercury levels in red blood cells (RBCs) and serum eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) concentrations was examined.


Study subjects were 269 Japanese (98 men and 171 women) living in a remote island of Kagoshima, and their blood was drawn in 1994.


Total mercury levels were related to weekly fish consumption among women (P = 0.035) but not among men (P = 0.643). However, serum EPA levels were not related to fish consumption in both women and men. In contrast, EPA levels in the high-density ipoprotein (HDL) fraction of the sera were significantly related to fish consumption (P values for men and women were 0.014 and 0.073, resp.). Interestingly, mercury levels were related to serum EPA levels and EPA in the HDL fraction of the sera (P = 0.001) among women (P = 0.005) but not among men. Sex differences in fish species consumed may be an explanation for the observed sex difference.


Those findings suggest that the health benefit of fish consumption can be maximized by the careful selection of fish species consumed.

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