WEDNESDAY, March 23 (HealthDay News) -- Though repeatedly linked to neurological deficits in children and unborn babies, Americans' level of exposure to mercury from sources such as fish is not associated with a higher risk of heart disease, stroke or other cardiovascular disease, a new study suggests.
Building on prior research that produced inconsistent results, scientists from Harvard School of Public Health and Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston evaluated data from two separate studies on more than 173,000 men and women who answered questions about their medical history, risk factors, disease incidence and lifestyle.
The researchers also measured mercury concentrations in the stored toenail clippings -- a reliable storehouse of long-term mercury exposure -- of nearly 7,000 participants, an equal number of whom had or had not suffered a cardiovascular event during the study follow-up period.
The team found no sign that the mercury levels hiked cardiovascular risk.
"Basically, what we found was very simple and very clear," said study author Dr. Dariush Mozaffarian, an associate professor of epidemiology at Harvard School of Public Health and division of cardiovascular medicine at Brigham Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School.
"I think this is the most definitive study, and I'm not sure more studies are actually needed," Mozaffarian added. "It's nice to be able to answer an important research question. This is observational, so there's possibly some subtle effect we missed. But I think this provides the most definitive evidence available."
The study, which was funded by the U.S. National Institutes of Health, is published March 24 in the New England Journal of Medicine.
Health experts have long advised the public to balance the health benefits of fish (which often contains healthy omega-3 fatty acids) with the potential of mer
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