In vitro evaluation of dietary compounds to reduce mercury bioavailability

Food Chem. 2018 May 15;248:353-359. doi: 10.1016/j.foodchem.2017.12.012. Epub 2017 Dec 6.


Mercury in foods, in inorganic form [Hg(II)] or as methylmercury (CH3Hg), can have adverse effects. Its elimination from foods is not technologically viable. To reduce human exposure, possible alternatives might be based on reducing its intestinal absorption. This study evaluates the ability of 23 dietary components to reduce the amount of mercury that is absorbed and reaches the bloodstream (bioavailability). We determined their effect on uptake of mercury in Caco-2 cells, a model of intestinal epithelium, exposed to Hg(II) and CH3Hg standards and to swordfish bioaccessible fractions. Cysteine, homocysteine, glutathione, quercetin, albumin and tannic reduce bioavailability of both mercury species. Fe(II), lipoic acid, pectin, epigallocatechin and thiamine are also effective for Hg(II). Some of these strategies also reduce Hg bioavailability in swordfish (glutathione, cysteine, homocysteine). Moreover, extracts and supplements rich in these compounds are also effective. This knowledge may help to define dietary strategies to reduce in vivo mercury bioavailability.

Keywords: Bioavailability; Dietary strategies; Food; Mercury; Swordfish.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biological Availability
  • Biological Transport
  • Caco-2 Cells
  • Cysteine / pharmacology
  • Dietary Supplements
  • Glutathione / pharmacology
  • Homocysteine / pharmacology
  • Humans
  • Intestinal Absorption / drug effects
  • Intestinal Mucosa / drug effects*
  • Intestinal Mucosa / metabolism
  • Mercury / pharmacokinetics*
  • Methylmercury Compounds / pharmacokinetics
  • Perciformes
  • Quercetin / pharmacology
  • Seafood


  • Methylmercury Compounds
  • Homocysteine
  • Quercetin
  • Mercury
  • Glutathione
  • Cysteine