Persistent organic pollutants in adipose tissue should be considered in obesity research

Obes Rev. 2017 Feb;18(2):129-139. doi: 10.1111/obr.12481. Epub 2016 Dec 2.


Although low doses of persistent organic pollutants (POPs), strong lipophilic chemicals with long half-lives, have been linked to various endocrine, immune, nervous and reproductive system diseases, few obesity studies have considered adipose tissue as an important POPs exposure source. Because the toxicodynamics of POPs relate directly to the dynamics of adiposity, POPs might explain puzzling findings in obesity research. In two people exposed to the same amounts of environmental POPs, the one having more adipose tissue may be advantaged because POPs storage in adipose tissue can reduce burden on other critical organs. Therefore, adipose tissue can play a protective role against the POPs effects. However, two situations increase the POPs release from adipose tissue into the circulation, thereby increasing the risk that they will reach critical organs: (i) weight loss and (ii) insulin resistance. In contrast, weight gain reduces this possibility. Therefore, avoiding harmful health effects of POPs may mostly contradict conventional judgments about obesity and weight change. These contradictory situations can explain the obesity paradox, the adverse effects of intensive intentional weight loss and the protective effects of obesity against dementia. Future studies should consider that adipose tissue is widely contaminated with POPs in modern society.

Keywords: Dementia; obesity paradox; persistent organic pollutants; weight loss.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adiposity / drug effects*
  • Body Weight
  • Environmental Pollutants / adverse effects*
  • Environmental Pollutants / analysis
  • Humans
  • Insulin Resistance
  • Obesity / chemically induced
  • Obesity / epidemiology*
  • Risk Factors


  • Environmental Pollutants