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Huskies lend insight into mercury risk
Date:11/20/2011

Researchers have highlighted the serious health risks associated with the diets of indigenous people by linking the accumulation of mercury in their primary food source to a decrease in the power of antioxidants.

Published today, 21 November, in IOP Publishing's journal Environmental Research Letters, the study used Alaskan huskies to demonstrate the risk posed by contaminants, such as mercury, in the subsistence diets that both indigenous people and huskies live on.

Huskies are an ideal model for humans as they are exposed to the same environmental hazards and have already been proven as an effective indicator of human ageing, immune function, toxicology and cognitive disorders.

Data taken from the huskies maintained on a diet of black bear, moose, pike and salmon showed an inverse correlation between mercury exposure and antioxidant status: as the mercury exposure increased, the antioxidant status of the huskies decreased.

Antioxidants substances that play a critical role in protecting cells stop electrons being ripped from other molecules. If antioxidants are not functioning properly, electron removal, also known as oxidation, can trigger chain reactions leading to cell damage and eventually cell death.

This damage, also known as oxidative stress, is thought to contribute to the development of a wide range of diseases including Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, diabetes and motor neuron disease. As such, antioxidants are widely used ingredients in a large number of dietary supplements, and have been investigated in the prevention of cancer and cardiovascular disease.

People in rural Alaskan communities live a subsistence lifestyle firstly to survive, and also to uphold traditional, cultural and spiritual values; however, they are becoming increasingly concerned with the health implications from foods such as pike and other fish due to the vast array of pollutants, such as mercury, making their w
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Contact: Michael Bishop
michael.bishop@iop.org
01-179-301-032
Institute of Physics
Source:Eurekalert

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