Benefits and risks associated with consumption of raw, cooked, and canned tuna (Thunnus spp.) based on the bioaccessibility of selenium and methylmercury

Environ Res. 2015 Nov;143(Pt B):130-7. doi: 10.1016/j.envres.2015.04.019. Epub 2015 May 8.


The Se, Hg, and methylmercury (MeHg) levels in raw, cooked (boiled and grilled), and canned tuna (Thunnus spp.) were determined before and after an in vitro digestion, thereby enabling the calculation of the respective bioaccessibility percentages. A risk-benefit evaluation of raw and canned tuna on the basis of the Se and MeHg data was performed. Selenium bioaccessibility was high in tuna, though slightly lower in canned than in raw products. Mercury levels were high in raw and cooked tuna. Hg bioaccessibility percentages were low (39-48%) in the cooked tuna and even lower (<20%) in canned tuna. For the bioaccessible fraction, all molar Se:MeHg ratios were higher than one (between 10 and 74). A probabilistic assessment of MeHg risk vs Se benefit showed that while a weekly meal of canned tuna presents very low risk, raw, boiled, and grilled tuna consumption should not exceed a monthly meal, at least, for pregnant and nursing women.

Keywords: Bioaccessibility; Mercury; Methylmercury; Risk–benefit assessment; Selenium; Tuna.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biological Availability
  • Cooking*
  • Digestion
  • Food Preservation*
  • Humans
  • Methylmercury Compounds / analysis*
  • Methylmercury Compounds / pharmacokinetics
  • Models, Biological
  • Risk Assessment
  • Seafood / analysis*
  • Selenium / analysis*
  • Selenium / pharmacokinetics
  • Tuna / metabolism*


  • Methylmercury Compounds
  • Selenium