Humans seem to produce arsenobetaine and dimethylarsinate after a bolus dose of seafood

M. Molin, S.M. Ulven, L. Dahl, V.H. Telle-Hansen, M. Holck, G. Skjegstad, O. Ledsaak, Jens Jørgen Sloth, W. Goessler, A. Oshaug, J. Alexander, D. Fliegel, T.A. Ydersbond, H.M. Meltzer

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


Seafood is the predominant food source of several organoarsenic compounds. Some seafood species, like crustaceans and seaweed, also contain inorganic arsenic (iAs), a well-known toxicant. It is unclear whether human biotransformation of ingested organoarsenicals from seafood result in formation of arsenicals of health concern. The present controlled dietary study examined the urinary excretion of arsenic compounds (total arsenic (tAs), iAs, AB (arsenobetaine), dimethylarsinate (DMA) and methylarsonate (MA)) following ingestion of a single test meal of seafood (cod, 780μg tAs, farmed salmon, 290μg tAs or blue mussel, 690μg tAs or potato (control, 110μg tAs)) in 38 volunteers. The amount of ingested tAs excreted via the urine within 0–72h varied significantly among the groups: Cod, 74% (52–92%), salmon 56% (46–82%), blue mussel 49% (37–78%), control 45% (30–60%). The estimated total urinary excretion of AB was higher than the amount of ingested AB in the blue mussel group (112%) and also ingestion of cod seemed to result in more AB, indicating possible endogenous formation of AB from other organoarsenicals. Excretion of iAs was lower than ingested (13–22% of the ingested iAs was excreted in the different groups). Although the ingested amount of iAs+DMA+MA was low for all seafood groups (1.2–4.5% of tAs ingested), the urinary DMA excretion was high in the blue mussel and salmon groups, counting for 25% and 11% of the excreted tAs respectively. In conclusion our data indicate a possible formation of AB as a result of biotransformation of other organic arsenicals. The considerable amount of DMA excreted is probably not only due to methylation of ingested iAs, but due to biotransformation of organoarsenicals making it an inappropriate biomarker of iAs exposure in populations with a high seafood intake.
Original languageEnglish
JournalEnvironmental Research
Pages (from-to)28-39
Publication statusPublished - 2012


  • Dietary intervention
  • Arsenic
  • Dimethylarsinate
  • Seafood arsenic
  • Arsenobetaine

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