Objectives: In animal experiments, persistent organic pollutants (POPs) have induced visceral obesity. To address this possibility in humans, we evaluated associations between POPs and abdominal obesity both cross-sectionally and prospectively.
Methods: Twenty-one plasma POPs (16 polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) congeners, 3 organochlorine (OC) pesticides, 1 brominated diphenyl ether (BDE), and 1 dioxin) were measured at baseline in 970 participants aged 70 years of the Prospective Investigation of the Vasculature in Uppsala Seniors (PIVUS), with prospective analyses in 511 participants re-examined after 5 years. Abdominal obesity was defined by an increased waist circumference.
Results: In the cross-sectional analyses, concentrations of the less chlorinated PCBs, OC pesticides such as p,p'-DDE and dioxin had adjusted odds ratios of 2 to 3 for abdominal obesity. Many relations had inverted U-shapes rather than being linear, particularly in women. In contrast, concentrations of highly chlorinated PCBs were strongly inversely associated with abdominal obesity. In a single model including summary measures of the less chlorinated PCBs, highly chlorinated PCBs, and OC pesticides, both the positive associations and inverse associations strengthened. Similar but somewhat weaker associations were seen between POPs and risk of development of abdominal obesity in the prospective analyses.
Conclusion: Using both a cross-sectional and a prospective design, low-dose exposure to less chlorinated PCBs, p,p'-DDE, and dioxin, were associated with existence or development of abdominal obesity, while highly chlorinated PCBs had an opposite association in an elderly population, despite the previous observation of higher incident diabetes associated with these same PCBs.
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