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Mercury From Seafood Tied to Higher Levels of Autoantibodies

Exposure may raise risk of autoimmune diseases in women

TUESDAY, Feb. 10, 2015 (HealthDay News) — The mercury found in some seafood may be linked to autoimmune disorders among women of childbearing age, according to a study published online Feb. 10 in Environmental Health Perspectives.

“A large number of cases are not explained by genetics,” study author Emily Somers, Ph.D., of the University of Michigan Medical and Public Health Schools in Ann Arbor, said in a university news release, “so we believe studying environmental factors will help us understand why autoimmunity happens and how we may be able to intervene to improve health outcomes.” The team focused on government data that looked at women between the ages of 16 and 49 between 1999 and 2004.

The researchers found the higher the exposure to mercury, the higher the level of autoantibodies. “In our study, exposure to mercury stood out as the main risk factor for autoimmunity,” Somers said.

“The presence of autoantibodies doesn’t necessarily mean they will lead to an autoimmune disease,” Somers noted. “However, we know that autoantibodies are significant predictors of future autoimmune disease, and may predate the symptoms and diagnosis of an autoimmune disease by years. For women of childbearing age, who are at particular risk of developing this type of disease, it may be especially important to keep track of seafood consumption.”

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