Background: Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) are both man-made and naturally occurring environmental pollutants that may be related to cardiometabolic health risk.
Objective: To determine whether PAH is associated with obesity in the adult population and to examine whether urinary concentrations of PAH metabolites are associated with differences in how obesity relates to 3 or more risk factors for the metabolic syndrome (3RFMetS), type 2 diabetes (T2D), hypertension, and dyslipidemia.
Methods: A total of 4765 adult participants from the 2001-2008 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey were examined. The association between 8 urinary hydroxylated PAH metabolites, obesity, and health were examined using weighted logistic regressions adjusting for age, sex, ethnicity, PIR, smoking status, and urinary creatinine.
Results: There was a positive dose-dependent association between obesity and 2-phenanthrene quintiles (P trend <0.0001). Contrarily, higher quintiles of 1-naphthalene were associated with lower risk of obesity (P trend = 0.0004). For a given BMI, those in the highest quintile of 2-naphthalene, 2-fluorene, 3-fluorene and 2-phenanthrene had a 66-80% greater likelihood of 3RFMetS (P≤0.05) compared to low levels. Higher quintiles of 1-naphthalene, 2-naphthalene, 2-phenanthrene and 1-pyrene were associated with a 78-124% greater likelihood of T2D (P≤0.05) compared to low levels while high 1-naphthalene, 2-naphthalene, 2-fluorene, 3-fluorene and 2-phenanthrene were associated with a 38-68% greater likelihood of dyslipidemia (P≤0.05) compared to lower levels. Finally, 2-naphthalene and 2-phenanthrene were positively associated with hypertension (P trend = 0.008 and P trend = 0.02 respectively).
Conclusions: PAH is related to obesity and the expression of a number of obesity-related cardiometabolic health risk factors. Future research is needed to bring to light the mechanistic pathways related to these findings.