Association between serum concentrations of persistent organic pollutants and insulin resistance among nondiabetic adults: results from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 1999-2002

Diabetes Care. 2007 Mar;30(3):622-8. doi: 10.2337/dc06-2190.


Objective: We reported strong relations between serum concentrations of persistent organic pollutants (POPs), especially organochlorine (OC) pesticides or nondioxin-like polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), and prevalence of diabetes in a U.S population with background exposure to POPs. Here, we investigated POPs and insulin resistance, a frequent pathogenic precursor of type 2 diabetes.

Research design and methods: Serum POPs and homeostasis model assessment of insulin resistance (HOMA-IR) were investigated cross-sectionally in 749 nondiabetic participants aged > or = 20 years. Nineteen POPs in five subclasses were selected, detectable in > or = 60% of participants.

Results: Among subclasses, OC pesticides were most strongly associated with HOMA-IR. Adjusted geometric means of HOMA were 3.27, 3.36, 3.48, and 3.85 (P for trend <0.01) across quartiles of OC pesticides. The relationship strengthened with increasing HOMA-IR percentile: adjusted odds ratios comparing the highest versus lowest POPs quartile were 1.8 for being > or = 50th percentile of HOMA-IR, 4.4 for being > or = 75th percentile, and 7.5 for being > or = 90th percentile. Associations with elevated HOMA-IR appeared to be specific to oxychlordane and trans-nonachlor but also were found for two nondioxin-like PCBs. No HOMA-IR associations were seen in the other three POP subclasses. The association between OC pesticides and HOMA-IR tended to strengthen as waist circumference increased, with no apparent association in the lowest quartile of OC pesticide concentrations.

Conclusions: These findings, coupled with those concerning diabetes prevalence, suggest that OC pesticides and nondioxin-like PCBs may be associated with type 2 diabetes risk by increasing insulin resistance, and POPs may interact with obesity to increase the risk of type 2 diabetes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, U.S.
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / epidemiology
  • Environmental Pollutants / blood*
  • Health Surveys*
  • Humans
  • Hydrocarbons, Chlorinated / blood*
  • Insulin Resistance*
  • Nutrition Surveys
  • Odds Ratio
  • Polychlorinated Biphenyls / blood*
  • United States


  • Environmental Pollutants
  • Hydrocarbons, Chlorinated
  • Polychlorinated Biphenyls