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Sci Total Environ. 2013 Jun 1;454-455:73-8. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2013.02.075. Epub 2013 Mar 26.

Relationship of estimated dietary intake of n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids from fish with peripheral nerve function after adjusting for mercury exposure.

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  • 1Department of Environmental Health Sciences, University of Michigan School of Public Health, 1415 Washington Heights, Ann Arbor, MI 48109, USA.



Some clinical studies have suggested that ingestion of n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) has neuroprotective effects on peripheral nerve function. However, few epidemiological studies have examined the effect of dietary n-3 PUFA intake from fish consumption on peripheral nerve function, and none have controlled for co-occurrence of methylmercury exposure from fish consumption.


We evaluated the effect of estimated dietary n-3 PUFA intake on peripheral nerve function after adjusting for biomarkers of methylmercury and elemental mercury in a convenience sample of 515 dental professionals.


We measured sensory nerve conduction (peak latency and amplitude) of the median, ulnar and sural nerves and total mercury concentrations in hair and urine samples. We estimated daily intake (mg/day) of the total n-3 PUFA, n-3 docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), and n-3 eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) based on a self-administrated fish consumption frequency questionnaire. We also collected information on mercury exposure, demographics and other covariates.


The estimated median intakes of total n-3 PUFA, n-3 EPA, and n-3 DHA were 447, 105, and 179 mg/day, respectively. The mean mercury concentrations in urine (1.05 μg/L) and hair (0.49 μg/g) were not significantly different from the US general population. We found no consistent association between n-3 PUFA intake and sensory nerve conduction after adjusting for mercury concentrations in hair and urine although some positive associations were observed with the sural nerve.


In a convenience sample of dental professionals, we found little evidence suggesting that dietary intake of n-3 PUFAs from fish has any impact on peripheral nerve function after adjustment for methylmercury exposure from fish and elemental mercury exposure from dental amalgam.

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