Aims/hypothesis: Several environmental contaminants, such as polychlorinated biphenyls, dioxins, bisphenol A and phthalates, have been linked to diabetes. We therefore investigated whether other kinds of contaminants, perfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), also called perfluorinated compounds (PFCs), are also associated with diabetes.
Methods: The Prospective Investigation of the Vasculature in Uppsala Seniors (PIVUS) study investigated 1,016 men and women aged 70 years. Seven PFAS were detected in almost all participant sera by ultra-high performance liquid chromatograph/tandem mass spectrometry. Diabetes was defined as use of hypoglycaemic agents or fasting glucose >7.0 mmol/l.
Results: 114 people had diabetes. In the linear analysis, no significant relationships were seen between the seven PFAS and prevalent diabetes. However, inclusion of the quadratic terms of the PFAS revealed a significant non-linear relationship between perfluorononanoic acid (PFNA) and diabetes, even after adjusting for multiple confounders (OR 1.96, 95% CI 1.19, 3.22, p = 0.008 for the linear term and OR 1.25, 95% CI 1.08, 1.44, p = 0.002 for the quadratic term). Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) also showed such a relationship (p = 0.01). PFOA was related to the proinsulin/insulin ratio (a marker of insulin secretion), but none of the PFAS was related to the HOMA-IR (a marker of insulin resistance) following adjustment for multiple confounders.
Conclusions/interpretation: PFNA was related to prevalent diabetes in a non-monotonic fashion in this cross-sectional study, supporting the view that this perfluoroalkyl substance might influence glucose metabolism in humans at the level of exposure seen in the general elderly population.