Recent research has again raised the issue regarding the potential health effects of long-term exposure to persistent organic pollutants (POPs) in the context of a risk-benefit analysis compared with the health benefits of consuming fatty fish. There is clear evidence of the beneficial effects of fish consumption on public health and, in particular, fatty fish with its essential fatty acids. In addition to providing fatty acids, fish fat constitutes an essential source to vitamins D and A. Norwegian Food Control Authorities have recently recommended that children and women of childbearing age not consume fish liver because of the risk associated with high intake of POPs.
The results presented here are from 4 cross-sectional studies in selected rural coastal communities where consumption of fish, fatty fish, and fish liver is considerable. The number of participants was, 35, 33, 50, and 60 in the respective studies. The participants were of both genders and between the age of 29 and 70 years. The level of PCBs and pesticides were determined plasma from all participants. All participants further answered a detailed dietary questionnaire in order to link dietary habits to the levels of POPs.
These levels of PCBs and pesticides were not significantly affected by the reported intake of fish liver, or fatty fish when age and gender were considered. Age was a significant predictor for most compounds and gender was significant for several of the compounds. When merging the datasets with an urban population with considerable lower intake of fish liver, the intake of cod liver still did not significantly affect the levels of PCBs and p,p'-DDE when adjusted for age, gender, and place.
The levels of POPs in human blood were not predicted by reported frequency of intake of fish liver or fatty fish but rather by age and gender in any of the study samples. In risk assessments that lead to advice to the population about intake of traditional marine food items, a approach that embraces both positive and negative health aspects regarding this diet is recommended.