One of the greatest risk factors for autoimmunity among women of childbearing age may be associated with exposure to mercury such as through seafood, a new University of Michigan study says.
The findings, which appear in Environmental Health Perspectives, found that mercury - even at low levels generally considered safe - was associated with autoimmunity. Autoimmune disorders, which cause the body's immune system to attack healthy cells by mistake, affects nearly 50 million Americans and predominately women.
Emily Somers is associate professor at the University of Michigan Medical and Public Health Schools.
Credit: U-M Health System
"We don't have a very good sense of why people develop autoimmune disorders," says lead author Emily Somers, Ph.D., Sc.M, an associate professor in the departments of Internal Medicine in the division of Rheumatology, Environmental Health Sciences, and Obstetrics & Gynecology at the U-M Medical and Public Health Schools.
"A large number of cases are not explained by genetics, 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. In our study, exposure to mercury stood out as the main risk factor for autoimmunity."
Autoimmune disease - which can include such conditions as inflammatory bowel disease, lupus, Sjögren's syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis and multiple sclerosis - is among the 10 leading causes of death among women.
Researchers analyzed data among women ages 16-49 from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey from 1999-2004. Greater exposure to mercury was associated with a higher rate of autoantibodies, a precursor to autoimmune disease. Most autoimmune diseases are characterized by autoantibodies, proteins made by a person's immune system when it fails to distinguish between its own tissues and potentially harmful cells.
Many fish consumption recommendations are aimed at pregnant women, those who may become pregnant, nursing moms and young children. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) say pregnant women can safely eat up to 12 ounces (340 grams) of seafood a week. Fish such as swordfish, king mackerel and tilefish contain the highest levels of mercury while shrimp, canned light tuna and salmon have lower levels.
Authors note there are many health benefits to seafood, a lean protein packed with vital nutrients. However, the findings provide further evidence that women of reproductive age should be mindful of the type of fish they're eating."
"The presence of autoantibodies doesn't necessarily mean they will lead to an autoimmune disease," Somers said. "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."
Additional Authors: Martha A Ganser, Jeffrey S Warren, Niladri Basu, Lu Wang, Suzanna M. Zick and Sung Kyun Park, all of U-M. Basu is also with the Faculty of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences at McGill University in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.
Funding: This work was supported by the National Institutes of Health, National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (K01ES019909 and P30ES017885); and the NIH National Center for Research Resources (UL1RR024986)
Reference: "Mercury Exposure and Antinuclear Antibodies among Females of Reproductive Age in the United States," Environmental Health Perspectives, Feb.10, 2015.
Beata Mostafavi | EurekAlert!
How cancer metastasis happens: Researchers reveal a key mechanism
19.01.2018 | Weill Cornell Medicine
Researchers identify new way to unmask melanoma cells to the immune system
17.01.2018 | Duke University Medical Center
On the way to an intelligent laboratory, physicists from Innsbruck and Vienna present an artificial agent that autonomously designs quantum experiments. In initial experiments, the system has independently (re)discovered experimental techniques that are nowadays standard in modern quantum optical laboratories. This shows how machines could play a more creative role in research in the future.
We carry smartphones in our pockets, the streets are dotted with semi-autonomous cars, but in the research laboratory experiments are still being designed by...
What enables electrons to be transferred swiftly, for example during photosynthesis? An interdisciplinary team of researchers has worked out the details of how...
For the first time, scientists have precisely measured the effective electrical charge of a single molecule in solution. This fundamental insight of an SNSF Professor could also pave the way for future medical diagnostics.
Electrical charge is one of the key properties that allows molecules to interact. Life itself depends on this phenomenon: many biological processes involve...
At the JEC World Composite Show in Paris in March 2018, the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT will be focusing on the latest trends and innovations in laser machining of composites. Among other things, researchers at the booth shared with the Aachen Center for Integrative Lightweight Production (AZL) will demonstrate how lasers can be used for joining, structuring, cutting and drilling composite materials.
No other industry has attracted as much public attention to composite materials as the automotive industry, which along with the aerospace industry is a driver...
Scientists at Tokyo Institute of Technology (Tokyo Tech) and Tohoku University have developed high-quality GFO epitaxial films and systematically investigated their ferroelectric and ferromagnetic properties. They also demonstrated the room-temperature magnetocapacitance effects of these GFO thin films.
Multiferroic materials show magnetically driven ferroelectricity. They are attracting increasing attention because of their fascinating properties such as...
08.01.2018 | Event News
11.12.2017 | Event News
08.12.2017 | Event News
22.01.2018 | Materials Sciences
22.01.2018 | Earth Sciences
22.01.2018 | Life Sciences