Fish consumption is the main source of human exposure to mercury. Studies from specific human populations have reported Hg levels lower than those modeled from consumption data. These discrepancies between expected and measured Hg levels may be explained by differences in dietary habits such as cooking methods and food components on fish Hg bioavailability. We assessed the effects of three cooking methods (no cooking, frying and boiling) and of the co-ingestion of selected food items (tea, coffee and corn starch) on Hg bioaccessibility in three fish species (tuna, shark and mackerel) containing between 1 and 4 μg/g dry weight of Hg. We used in vitro techniques simulating human digestion and each experiment was repeated three times with at least three different individuals for each fish species. For all fish species, Hg concentrations (dry weight) in boiled fish were slightly but not significantly higher than those in fried or raw fish. Boiling and frying reduced Hg bioaccessibility by 40% and 60%, respectively, compared to raw fish Hg bioaccessibility. Black coffee as well as green and black tea significantly reduced raw fish Hg bioaccessibility by 50-60%, whereas, corn starch did not. The combined effect of cooking and addition of tea or coffee led to very low levels of Hg bioaccessibility. This study suggests that Hg bioaccessibilty from fish can be modified by cooking and by the co-ingestion of tea and coffee. These results should be further validated in vitro with different fish species before proceeding with in vivo approaches using animal models.
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