An association of blood mercury levels and hypercholesterolemia among Korean adolescents

Sci Total Environ. 2020 Mar 20;709:135965. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2019.135965. Epub 2019 Dec 6.


Purpose: A few experimental studies have suggested that mercury exposure might be associated with dyslipidemia, possibly through its interference with the activities of genes and enzymes involved in lipid metabolism. Mercury exposure has been associated with the risk of dyslipidemia and cardiovascular disease in previous adult studies. However, only a few studies have been conducted in pediatric populations. We aimed to assess the associations between total blood mercury concentrations and lipid profiles in Korean adolescents.

Methods: The study population comprised 1890 adolescents (963 males and 927 females; age: 10-19 years) who participated in the Korea National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 2010-2013 and 2016 and whose fasting blood samples were obtained to determine their blood mercury concentrations and lipid profiles. We analyzed the distribution of lipid profiles and the prevalence of dyslipidemia based on the total blood mercury concentrations.

Results: The geometric mean of the blood mercury concentration was 1.89 μg/L and was significantly higher in males (1.96 μg/L) than in females (1.83 μg/L). The total cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol levels significantly increased as the blood total mercury concentration increased in males, not in females. High-density lipoprotein cholesterol and triglyceride levels did not show significant associations with total blood mercury levels. The prevalence of hyper-LDL-cholesterolemia also significantly increased in the highest blood mercury quartile group compared with that in the lowest blood mercury quartile group in males (P-for-trend <0.001). Male adolescents in the highest total blood mercury quartile group were found to be at higher risk of hypercholesterolemia than those in the lowest quartile group after adjusting for the covariates including obesity [odds ratios (95% confidential interval): 3.72 (1.03-13.4)]. Total blood mercury quartile showed a positive linear relationship with the risk of hyper-LDL-cholesterolemia after controlling for the covariates in males.

Conclusion: Our results suggest the potential association between mercury exposure and the risk of hyper-LDL-cholesterolemia in male adolescents.

Keywords: Dyslipidemia; Heavy metal; Hypercholesterolemia, youth; Mercury.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Child
  • Cholesterol, LDL
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hypercholesterolemia*
  • Male
  • Mercury
  • Nutrition Surveys
  • Republic of Korea
  • Young Adult


  • Cholesterol, LDL
  • Mercury