Cooking and co-ingested polyphenols reduce in vitro methylmercury bioaccessibility from fish and may alter exposure in humans
MeHg bioaccessibility is reduced by food preparation
Article [Accepted Manuscript]
Is part ofScience of the total environment ; vol. 616-617, pp. 863-874.
Fish consumption is a major pathway for mercury exposure in humans. Current guidelines and risk assessments assume that 100% of methylmercury (MeHg) in fish is absorbed by the human body after ingestion. However, a growing body of literature suggests that this absorption rate may be overestimated. We used an in vitro digestion method to measure MeHg bioaccessibility in commercially-purchased fish, and investigated the effects of dietary practices on MeHg bioaccessibility. Cooking had the greatest effect, decreasing bioaccessibility on average to 12.5 ± 5.6%. Polyphenol-rich beverages also significantly reduced bioaccessibility to 22.7 ± 3.8% and 28.6 ± 13.9%, for green and black tea respectively. We confirmed the suspected role of polyphenols in tea as being a driver of MeHg's reduced bioaccessibility, and found that epicatechin, epigallocatechin gallate, rutin and cafeic acid could individually decrease MeHg bioaccessibility by up to 55%. When both cooking and polyphenol-rich beverage treatments were combined, only 1% of MeHg remained bioaccessible. These results call for in vivo validation, and suggest that dietary practices should be considered when setting consumer guidelines for MeHg. More realistic risk assessments could promote consumption of fish as a source of fatty acids, which can play a protective role against cardiovascular disease.