Circulating persistent organic pollutants and body fat distribution: Evidence from NHANES 1999-2004

Obesity (Silver Spring). 2015 Sep;23(9):1903-10. doi: 10.1002/oby.21161. Epub 2015 Aug 3.


Objective: To evaluate and compare the correlations of various circulating persistent organic pollutants (POPs) with fat mass percentages (FM%) of trunk, leg, and whole body measured by dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry.

Methods: This study included 2358 adults (≥20 years) in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 1999-2004. Partial Pearson correlation coefficients were calculated, after adjusting for major confounders, including age, smoking status, and history of lactation and parity. Wolfe's method was used to compare correlation coefficients derived from the same participants.

Results: Twelve POPs showed significantly different correlations with fat depots in trunk and leg regions. β-hexachlorocyclohexane, heptachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin, octachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin, and polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB)-126 showed stronger positive correlations with trunk FM% than with leg FM%, whereas PCBs with ≥6 chlorines were more inversely correlated with trunk FM% than leg FM%. Age-stratified analysis showed stronger inverse correlations between POPs and trunk FM% mainly in participants <40 years, whereas stronger positive correlations between POPs and trunk FM% were observed in older participants.

Conclusions: Stronger associations between POPs and trunk fat as compared to leg fat possibly indicated a more important role of trunk fat in the pharmacokinetics of POPs, or a stronger effect of POPs, as endocrine disruptors, on trunk fat metabolism.

Publication types

  • Historical Article
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Body Fat Distribution / trends*
  • Environmental Pollutants / adverse effects*
  • Female
  • History, 20th Century
  • History, 21st Century
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nutrition Surveys
  • Organic Chemicals / adverse effects*


  • Environmental Pollutants
  • Organic Chemicals