Fish consumption may promote cardiovascular health. The role of major food contaminants, such as polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) common in fatty fish, is unclear. We assessed the association between dietary PCB exposure and risk of myocardial infarction taking into account the intake of long-chain omega-3 fish fatty acids.

In the prospective population-based Swedish Mammography Cohort, 33,446 middle-aged and elderly women, free from cardiovascular disease, cancer and diabetes at baseline (1997) were followed-up for 12years. Validated estimates of dietary PCB exposure and intake of fish fatty acids (eicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic acid; EPA-DHA) were obtained via a food frequency questionnaire at baseline.

During follow-up 1386 incident cases of myocardial infarction were ascertained through register-linkage. Women in the highest quartile of dietary PCB exposure (median 286ng/day) had a multivariable-adjusted RR of myocardial infarction of 1.21 (95% confidence interval [CI], 1.01-1.45) compared to the lowest quartile (median 101ng/day) before, and 1.58 (95% CI, 1.10-2.25) after adjusting for EPA-DHA. Stratification by low and high EPA-DHA intake, resulted in RRs 2.20 (95% CI, 1.18-4.12) and 1.73 (95% CI, 0.81-3.69), respectively comparing highest PCB tertile with lowest. The intake of dietary EPA-DHA was inversely associated with risk of myocardial infarction after but not before adjusting for dietary PCB.

Exposure to PCBs was associated with increased risk of myocardial infarction, while some beneficial effect was associated with increasing EPA and DHA intake. To increase the net benefits of fish consumption, PCB contamination should be reduced to a minimum.