Prospective associations between persistent organic pollutants and metabolic syndrome: a nested case-control study

Sci Total Environ. 2014 Oct 15:496:219-225. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2014.07.039. Epub 2014 Aug 2.


Objective: Exposure to persistent organic pollutants (POPs) has recently been linked to metabolic syndrome (MetS) and some MetS components. However, prospective evidence in humans is scarce, and the nature of the dose-response relationship is unclear. We evaluated the association between POPs and MetS using a nested-case control study within a community-based Korean cohort.

Method: The study subjects were 64 patients newly diagnosed with MetS during a 4-year follow-up, and the controls were 182 subjects without MetS. Concentrations of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and organochlorine pesticides (OCPs) were measured in stored serum collected at baseline.

Results: The concentrations of most PCBs and some OCPs such as β-hexachlorocyclohexane, hexachlorobenzene, oxychlordane, and heptachlor epoxide predicted the risk for MetS. The POP exposure and MetS showed an inverted U-shaped or a linear association with plateau rather than a linear dose-response association. When the summary measure of the PCBs and OCPs was used, the adjusted odds ratios (ORs) across the quartiles of the summary measure were 1.0, 1.3, 3.8 (95% confidence interval, 1.3-10.7), and 2.1 (Pquadratic=0.013) after adjusting for potential confounders. In the analyses of each of the five MetS components, POP exposure was mainly associated with an increased risk for glucose and lipid metabolism disturbances.

Conclusion: This study demonstrated that chronic exposure to a mixture of PCBs and OCPs can increase the risk for MetS within the low-dose background exposure range of POPs. As the findings of this study suggest a nonmonotonic dose-response relationship, in vitro and in vivo experimental studies are needed to understand the underlying mechanisms.

Keywords: Metabolic syndrome; Organochlorine pesticides; Persistent organic pollutants; Polychlorinated biphenyls.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Case-Control Studies
  • Environmental Exposure / statistics & numerical data*
  • Environmental Pollutants / blood*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hydrocarbons, Chlorinated / blood
  • Male
  • Metabolic Syndrome / epidemiology*
  • Middle Aged
  • Odds Ratio
  • Pesticides / blood
  • Polychlorinated Biphenyls / blood


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