Seafood consumption and blood mercury concentrations in adults aged ≥20 y, 2007-20101-4

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Seafood is part of a healthy diet, but seafood can also contain methyl mercury—a neurotoxin.


The objective was to describe seafood consumption in US adults and to explore the relation between seafood consumption and blood mercury.


Seafood consumption, obtained from a food-frequency questionnaire, and blood mercury data were available for 10,673 adults who participated in the 2007-2010 NHANES—a cross-sectional nationally representative sample of the US population. Seafood consumption was categorized by type (fish or shellfish) and by frequency of consumption (0, 1-2, 3-4, or ≥5 times/mo). Linear trends in geometric mean blood mercury concentrations by frequency of seafood consumption were tested. Logistic regression analyses examined the odds of blood mercury concentrations ≥5.8 μg/L (as identified by the National Research Council) based on frequency of the specific type of seafood consumed (included in the model as continuous variables) adjusted for sex, age, and race/ Hispanic origin.


In 2007-2010, 83.0% ± 0.7% (±SE) of adults consumed seafood in the preceding month. In adults consuming seafood, the blood mercury concentration increased as the frequency of seafood consumption increased (P < 0.001). In 2007-2010, 4.6% ± 0.39% of adults had blood mercury concentrations ≥5.8 μg/L. Results of the logistic regression on blood mercury concentrations ≥5.8 μg/L showed no association with shrimp (P = 0.21) or crab (P = 0.48) consumption and a highly significant positive association with consumption of high-mercury fish (adjusted OR per unit monthly consumption: 4.58; 95% CI: 2.44, 8.62; P < 0.001), tuna (adjusted OR: 1.14; 95% CI: 1.10, 1.17; P < 0.001), salmon (adjusted OR: 1.14; 95% CI: 1.09, 1.20; P < 0.001), and other seafood (adjusted OR: 1.12; 95% CI: 1.08, 1.15; P < 0.001).


Most US adults consume seafood, and the blood mercury concentration is associated with the consumption of tuna, salmon, high-mercury fish, and other seafood.

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