Association of blood polychlorinated biphenyls and cholesterol levels among Canadian Inuit

Environ Res. 2018 Jan;160:298-305. doi: 10.1016/j.envres.2017.10.010. Epub 2017 Oct 15.


Background: It has generally been thought that Inuit populations have low risk of cardiovascular disease due to high consumption of omega-3 fatty acids found in traditional marine-based diets. However, results of recent surveys showed that Inuit populations are experiencing increasing rates of cardiovascular disease and related risk factors.

Objective: The purpose of this study was to investigate if blood polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) are associated with high cholesterol and related parameters in Canadian Inuit, known risk factors for cardiovascular disease.

Methods: The Adult Inuit Health Survey (IHS, 2007-2008) included 2595 Inuit participants from three regions of the Canadian Arctic, of which 2191 could be classified as with or without high cholesterol. The high cholesterol outcome was defined by LDL-C > 3.36mmol/L or taking medication(s) that reduce cholesterol, and was examined in adjusted logistic regression models with individual blood levels of PCB congeners, sum of dioxin-like PCBs (∑DL-PCBs), or sum of non-dioxin-like PCBs (∑NDL-PCBs). Statistically significant covariates for high cholesterol were ranked in importance according to the proportion of the model log likelihood explained. Continuous clinical parameters of total cholesterol, triglycerides, LDL-C, and HDL-C were examined in multiple linear regression models with ∑DL-PCBs or ∑NDL-PCBs.

Results: A total of 719 participants had high cholesterol (32.8%). PCBs were associated with increased risk of high cholesterol, and higher levels of serum triglycerides, total cholesterol, and LDL-C. No association was observed between PCBs and serum HDL-C. With respect to other statistically significant covariates for high cholesterol, the log likelihood ranking of PCBs generally fell between body mass index (BMI) and age.

Conclusion: Further work is needed to corroborate the associations observed with PCBs and lipids in Canadian Inuit and to examine if they are causal in the direction anticipated.

Keywords: Blood PCB; Canada; Cholesterol; Inuit; Triglyceride.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Canada / epidemiology
  • Cholesterol / blood*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hypercholesterolemia / chemically induced*
  • Hypercholesterolemia / ethnology
  • Inuits / statistics & numerical data*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Polychlorinated Biphenyls / blood
  • Polychlorinated Biphenyls / toxicity*


  • Cholesterol
  • Polychlorinated Biphenyls