Mercury in serum predicts low risk of death and myocardial infarction in Gothenburg women

  • Ingvar A. Bergdahl
  • Margareta Ahlqwist
  • Lars Barregard
  • Cecilia Björkelund
  • Ann Blomstrand
  • Staffan Skerfving
  • Valter Sundh
  • Maria Wennberg
  • Lauren Lissner
Original Article



Markers of mercury (Hg) exposure have shown both positive and negative associations with cardiovascular disease (CVD). We assessed the association between serum Hg (S–Hg) and risk of cardiovascular disease in a prospective population-based cohort, with attention to the roles of dental health and fish consumption.


Total mortality, as well as morbidity and mortality from acute myocardial infarction (AMI) and stroke, was followed up for 32 years in 1,391 women (initially age 38–60), in relation to S–Hg at baseline, using Cox regression models. Potential confounders (age, socioeconomic status, serum lipids, alcohol consumption, dental health, smoking, hypertension, waist-hip ratio, and diabetes) and other covariates (e.g., fish consumption) were also considered.


Hazard ratios (HR) adjusted only for age showed strong inverse associations between baseline S–Hg and total mortality [highest quartile: hazard ratio (HR) 0.76; 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.59–0.97], incident AMI (HR 0.56; CI 0.34–0.93), and fatal AMI (HR 0.31; CI 0.15–0.66). Adjustment for potential confounding factors, especially dental health, had a strong impact on the risk estimates, and after adjustment, only the reduced risk of fatal AMI remained statistically significant.


There was a strong inverse association between Hg exposure and CVD. Likely, reasons are confounding with good dental health (also correlated with the number of amalgam fillings in these age groups) and/or fish consumption. The results suggest potential effects of dental health and/or fish consumption on CVD that deserve attention in preventive medicine.


Mercury Fish Amalgam Mortality Cardiovascular Myocardial infarction Stroke 



The study was supported by the Swedish Council for Working Life and Social Research; the Swedish Council for Environment, Agricultural Sciences, and Spatial Planning; the Medical Faculties of Umeå, Gothenburg and Lund Universities; the County councils of south and southwest Sweden; and the European Union (FP6; PHIME: FOOD-CT-2006-016253). The European Community is not liable for any use that may be made of the information contained therein. Dr. Ragnhild Lenner from the Department of Clinical Nutrition is acknowledged for the collection of dietary data.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflicts of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ingvar A. Bergdahl
    • 1
  • Margareta Ahlqwist
    • 2
  • Lars Barregard
    • 5
  • Cecilia Björkelund
    • 3
  • Ann Blomstrand
    • 3
  • Staffan Skerfving
    • 6
  • Valter Sundh
    • 4
  • Maria Wennberg
    • 1
  • Lauren Lissner
    • 4
  1. 1.Department of Public Health and Clinical Medicine, Occupational and Environmental MedicineUmeå UniversityUmeåSweden
  2. 2.Department of Oral and Maxillofacial Radiology, The Sahlgrenska AcademyUniversity of GothenburgGothenburgSweden
  3. 3.Department of Public Health and Community Medicine/Primary Health Care, The Sahlgrenska AcademyUniversity of GothenburgGothenburgSweden
  4. 4.Department of Public Health and Community Medicine, The Sahlgrenska AcademyUniversity of GothenburgGothenburgSweden
  5. 5.Department of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, The Sahlgrenska AcademyUniversity of GothenburgGothenburgSweden
  6. 6.Division of Occupational and Environmental MedicineLund UniversityLundSweden

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