A cross-sectional study of the association between persistent organic pollutants and glucose intolerance among Greenland Inuit

Diabetologia. 2008 Aug;51(8):1416-22. doi: 10.1007/s00125-008-1066-0. Epub 2008 Jun 17.


Aims/hypothesis: Some evidence supports the hypothesis that persistent organic pollutants (POPs) may increase the risk of type 2 diabetes. The Inuit population in Greenland, which is highly exposed to POPs due to a high intake of marine mammals, has experienced a rapid increase in diabetes prevalence over the last 30 years. Thus the aim was to study the association between POPs and glucose intolerance and markers of insulin resistance and insulin secretion using a population-based design.

Methods: From 1999 to 2002 the Greenland population study was carried out among adult Inuit living in Greenland. The examination included a 75 g OGTT, anthropometric measurements, a structured interview, and blood tests. Plasma glucose and serum insulin were analysed, and three defined subclasses of POPs were analysed in a subgroup. Associations were adjusted for age, sex, waist circumference, Inuit heritage, cigarette smoking, alcohol consumption and educational level.

Results: Data on POPs were available on 692 individuals, 305 men (mean age 50 years) and 387 women (mean age 49 years). The prevalence of diabetes was 10.3%, and 10.5% had impaired glucose tolerance. The concentrations of several POPs were exceptionally high. While no associations were found between POPs and stages of glucose intolerance or markers of insulin resistance, POPs were significantly inversely associated with stimulated insulin concentrations and homeostasis model assessment of beta cell function.

Conclusions/interpretation: The study indicates that POPs may affect insulin secretion rather than being involved in the pathogenesis of insulin resistance. No association was seen between POPs and glucose intolerance or markers of insulin resistance.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Air Pollutants / adverse effects*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Dioxins / adverse effects
  • Dioxins / analysis
  • Glucose Intolerance / epidemiology*
  • Glucose Intolerance / etiology
  • Glucose Tolerance Test
  • Greenland / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Inuit / statistics & numerical data*
  • Organic Chemicals / adverse effects*
  • Polychlorinated Biphenyls / adverse effects
  • Polychlorinated Biphenyls / analysis


  • Air Pollutants
  • Dioxins
  • Organic Chemicals
  • Polychlorinated Biphenyls