Persistent organic pollutants and diabetes: a review of the epidemiological evidence

Diabetes Metab. 2014 Feb;40(1):1-14. doi: 10.1016/j.diabet.2013.09.006. Epub 2013 Nov 18.


The prevalence of diabetes and obesity has increased rapidly over the last few decades in both developed and developing countries. While it is intuitively appealing to suggest that lifestyle risk factors such as decreased physical activity and adoption of poor diets can explain much of the increase, the evidence to support this is poor. Given this, there has been an impetus to look more widely than traditional lifestyle and biomedical risk factors, especially those risk factors, which arise from the environment. Since the industrial revolution, there has been an introduction of many chemicals into our environment, which have now become environmental pollutants. There has been growing interest in one key class of environmental pollutants known as persistent organic pollutants (POPs) and their potential role in the development of diabetes. This review will summarise and appraise the current epidemiological evidence relating POPs to diabetes and highlight gaps and flaws in this evidence.

Keywords: Diabetes; Dioxin; Persistent organic pollutants; Polychlorinated biphenyls.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adipose Tissue / metabolism*
  • Air Pollutants, Occupational / adverse effects*
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / chemically induced
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / epidemiology
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / etiology*
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / metabolism
  • Environmental Exposure / adverse effects*
  • Environmental Pollutants / adverse effects*
  • Epidemiological Monitoring
  • Female
  • Glucose Transport Proteins, Facilitative / metabolism
  • Herbicides / adverse effects
  • Humans
  • Hydrocarbons, Chlorinated / adverse effects
  • Insulin / metabolism
  • Insulin Secretion
  • Liver / metabolism*
  • Male
  • Pancreas / metabolism*
  • Polychlorinated Biphenyls / adverse effects
  • Polychlorinated Dibenzodioxins / adverse effects
  • Prevalence
  • Protein Binding / drug effects
  • Risk Factors


  • Air Pollutants, Occupational
  • Environmental Pollutants
  • Glucose Transport Proteins, Facilitative
  • Herbicides
  • Hydrocarbons, Chlorinated
  • Insulin
  • Polychlorinated Dibenzodioxins
  • Polychlorinated Biphenyls