Myocardial infarction in relation to mercury and fatty acids from fish: a risk-benefit analysis based on pooled Finnish and Swedish data in men

Maria Wennberg, Ulf Strömberg, Ingvar A. Bergdahl, Jan-Hakan Jansson, Jussi Kauhanen, Margareta Norberg, Jukka T. Salonen, Staffan Skerfving, Tomi-Pekka Tuomainen, Bengt Vessby, Jyrki K. Virtanen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

39 Citations (SciVal)


Background: Exposure to methylmercury from fish has been associated with increased risk of myocardial infarction (MI) in some studies. At the same time, marine n-3 (omega-3) PUFAs are an inherent constituent of fish and are regarded as beneficial. To our knowledge, no risk-benefit model on the basis of data on methylmercury, PUFA, and MI risk has yet been presented. Objective: The objective of this study was to describe how exposure to both marine n-3 PUFAs and methylmercury relates to MI risk by using data from Finland and Sweden. Design: We used matched case-control sets from Sweden and Finland that were nested in population-based, prospective cohort studies. We included 361 men with MI from Sweden and 211 men with MI from Finland. MI risk was estimated in a logistic regression model with the amount of mercury in hair (hair-Hg) and concentrations of n-3 PUFAs (EPA and DHA) in serum (S-PUFA) as independent variables. Results: The median hair-Hg was 0.57 mu g/g in Swedish and 1.32 mu g/g in Finnish control subjects, whereas the percentage of S-PUFA was 4.21% and 3.83%, respectively. In combined analysis, hair-Hg was associated with higher (P = 0.005) and S-PUFA with lower (P = 0.011) MI risk. Our model indicated that even a small change in fish consumption (ie, by increasing S-PUFA by 1%) would prevent 7% of MIs, despite a small increase in mercury exposure. However, at a high hair-Hg, the modeled beneficial effect of PUFA on MI risk was counteracted by methylmercury. Conclusions: Exposure to methylmercury was associated with increased risk of MI, and higher S-PUFA concentrations were associated with decreased risk of MI. Thus, MI risk may be reduced by the consumption of fish high in PUFAs and low in methylmercury. Am J Clin Nutr 2012;96:706-13.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)706-713
JournalAmerican Journal of Clinical Nutrition
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2012

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Nutrition and Dietetics


Dive into the research topics of 'Myocardial infarction in relation to mercury and fatty acids from fish: a risk-benefit analysis based on pooled Finnish and Swedish data in men'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this