Epidemiological evidence suggests a negative impact of methylmercury (MeHg) on cardiovascular risk factors such as blood pressure (BP) and heart rate (HR). This issue is of concern in Arctic populations such as in the Inuit of Nunavik since this contaminant is accumulated in fish and marine mammals, which still represent the subsistence diet of this population.
We examined the associations between MeHg and BP and resting HR among Inuit adults.
The "Santé Quebec" health survey was conducted in 1992 in the 14 villages of Nunavik and a complete set of data was obtained for 313 Inuit adults=18 years. Blood samples were collected in order to determine total mercury, lead, total polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs), fasting glucose and lipid profile while socio-demographic variables were obtained through questionnaires. Anthropometric measurements as well as BP and resting HR were obtained using standardised protocols. Pulse pressure (PP: systolic BP minus diastolic BP) was also calculated. Multiple linear regression was used in order to determine the change in the dependent variables associated with the quartiles of MeHg concentration, taking the quartile 1 as reference.
The mean age of the participants was 38±14 years and the sample was composed of 132 men (42.2%) and 181 women (57.8%). MeHg geometric mean was 15.4 µg/L (95%CI: 13.9-17.0) and levels ranged from 0.8 to 112.0 µg/L. Resting HR increased linearly across quartiles of blood MeHg concentration after adjusting for confounders (p for trend=0.02). An increase of 6.9 beats per minute (bpm) between the 4th and 1st quartile was observed after adjusting for confounders. No significant association was observed between blood MeHg and systolic BP, diastolic BP or PP.
MeHg was associated with increasing resting HR after considering traditional risk factors as well as other contaminants (lead and total PCBs) and n-3 PUFAs. In contrast, no significant association with blood pressure was observed in this study.