Background: While there appears to be a consensus among scientists and clinicians that body weight loss reduces the risk of several chronic diseases, these apparently favourable effects should be balanced against any potentially harmful side effect of weight loss. In this regard, weight loss has been shown to produce an increase in blood concentration of potentially toxic organochlorine pollutants in animals that can cause prejudice to health, but human data are lacking.
Methods: Thirty-nine obese individuals were subjected to a hypocaloric diet during 15 weeks. Blood and subcutaneous adipose tissue samples were analysed before and after treatment for 26 organochlorine compounds. A control group consisting of 57 women of similar mean age was also formed in order to compare plasma concentrations.
Results: Organochlorine pollutants were found in every subject and all 19 compounds detected had their plasma concentration increased following treatment (mean body weight loss 9.5 kg), 15 of which were statistically significant. When compared with a control group, five compounds increased significantly. These observations persisted after an 18 week low-fat diet/exercise program follow-up. Increases were correlated with body weight loss (-0.3 > or = r > or = -0.6, P<0.05) and adipose tissue analyses yielded similar results, as their concentration of organochlorine compounds increased following treatment.
Conclusion: Body weight loss increases plasma and subcutaneous adipose tissue concentrations of organochlorine pesticides and PCBs in obese subjects. These results raise concerns about an undesired and potentially harmful side effect of weight loss in some obese patients who seem to be at greater risk of health problems than leaner subjects since they show higher organochlorine body burden.