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Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2009 Jun;6(6):1894-916. doi: 10.3390/ijerph6061894. Epub 2009 Jun 23.

Fish, mercury, selenium and cardiovascular risk: current evidence and unanswered questions.

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  • 1Division of Cardiovascular Medicine and Channing Laboratory, Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, USA.


Controversy has arisen among the public and in the media regarding the health effects of fish intake in adults. Substantial evidence indicates that fish consumption reduces coronary heart disease mortality, the leading cause of death in developed and most developing nations. Conversely, concerns have grown regarding potential effects of exposure to mercury found in some fish. Seafood species are also rich in selenium, an essential trace element that may protect against both cardiovascular disease and toxic effects of mercury. Such protective effects would have direct implications for recommendations regarding optimal selenium intake and for assessing the potential impact of mercury exposure from fish intake in different populations. Because fish consumption appears to have important health benefits in adults, elucidating the relationships between fish intake, mercury and selenium exposure, and health risk is of considerable scientific and public health relevance. The evidence for health effects of fish consumption in adults is reviewed, focusing on the strength and consistency of evidence and relative magnitudes of effects of omega-3 fatty acids, mercury, and selenium. Given the preponderance of evidence, the focus is on cardiovascular effects, but other potential health effects, as well as potential effects of polychlorinated biphenyls and dioxins in fish, are also briefly reviewed. The relevant current unanswered questions and directions of further research are summarized.


cardiovascular disease; fish; mercury; review; selenium

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