Circulating levels of persistent organic pollutants are related to retrospective assessment of life-time weight change

Chemosphere. 2013 Jan;90(3):998-1004. doi: 10.1016/j.chemosphere.2012.07.051. Epub 2012 Aug 23.


Background: Persistent organic pollutants (POPs) have been suggested to be linked to obesity. We have previously shown that less-chlorinated PCBs were positively related to fat mass, while highly-chlorinated PCBs were inversely related to obesity.

Objective: The aim of the present evaluation is to investigate the relationship between retrospective assessed life-time change in body weight (20-70 years) with circulating POP levels measured at age 70 years.

Methods: 1016 subjects aged 70 years were investigated in the Prospective Investigation of the Vasculature in Uppsala Seniors (PIVUSs) study. 16 PCBs and 3 OC pesticides were analyzed using HRGC/HRMS. Current body weight was measured and participants self-reported their weight at age 20.

Results: The average estimated weight change over 50 years was 14.4 kg. Both the sum of OC pesticide concentrations (4.3 kg more weight gain in quintile 5 vs. quintile 1, p<0.0001) and the sum of the less-chlorinated PCBs were positively related to the estimated weight change (3.7 kg more weight gain in quintile 2 vs. quintile 1, non-linear relationship p=0.0015). In contrast, the sum of concentrations of highly-chlorinated PCBs were inversely related to estimated weight change (8.4 kg less weight gain in quintile 5 vs. quintile 1, p<0.0001).

Conclusion: High levels of OC pesticides and the less-chlorinated PCBs at age 70 were associated with a pronounced estimated weight change over the previous 50 years. However, the opposite was seen for highly-chlorinated PCBs. Differences in mode of action, toxicokinetics, non-linear relationships and reverse causation might explain these discrepancies.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Body Weight / drug effects*
  • Environmental Exposure / adverse effects
  • Environmental Exposure / analysis
  • Environmental Pollutants / adverse effects
  • Environmental Pollutants / blood*
  • Female
  • Halogenation
  • Humans
  • Hydrocarbons, Chlorinated / adverse effects
  • Hydrocarbons, Chlorinated / blood*
  • Male
  • Obesity / chemically induced
  • Pesticides / adverse effects
  • Pesticides / blood*
  • Polychlorinated Biphenyls / adverse effects
  • Polychlorinated Biphenyls / blood*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Young Adult


  • Environmental Pollutants
  • Hydrocarbons, Chlorinated
  • Pesticides
  • Polychlorinated Biphenyls