Blood Concentrations of Persistent Organic Pollutants and Unhealthy Metabolic Phenotypes in Normal-Weight, Overweight, and Obese Individuals

Am J Epidemiol. 2018 Mar 1;187(3):494-506. doi: 10.1093/aje/kwx267.


Factors underlying metabolic phenotypes, such as the metabolically healthy but obese phenotype, remain unclear. Differences in metabolic phenotypes-particularly, among individuals with a similar body mass index-could be related to concentrations of persistent organic pollutants (POPs). To our knowledge, no studies have analyzed POPs and metabolic phenotypes in normal-weight persons. We investigated the relationships between serum concentrations of POPs and metabolic phenotypes in 860 normal-weight, overweight, and obese participants in the 2002 Catalan Health Interview Survey (Spain). POP concentrations were significantly higher in metabolically unhealthy than in metabolically healthy individuals. In models adjusting for body mass index and other confounders, hexachlorobenzene, β-hexachlorocyclohexane, and polychlorinated biphenyls were associated with the unhealthy metabolic phenotype and metabolic syndrome. Among normal-weight individuals, the adjusted prevalence ratio of having an unhealthy phenotype for the upper category of the sum of orders of the 6 mentioned POPs (all individually associated with metabolic phenotypes) was 4.1 (95% confidence interval: 1.7, 10.0). Among overweight and obese individuals, the corresponding prevalence ratio for the sum of polychlorinated biphenyls was 1.4 (95% confidence interval: 1.0, 1.8). Our results supported the hypothesis that POP concentrations are associated with unhealthy metabolic phenotypes, not only in obese and overweight individuals but also (and probably more strongly) in normal-weight individuals.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Body Weight
  • Environmental Pollutants / blood*
  • Female
  • Hexachlorobenzene / blood
  • Hexachlorocyclohexane / blood
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Metabolic Syndrome / blood*
  • Middle Aged
  • Obesity / blood*
  • Overweight / blood*
  • Phenotype*
  • Polychlorinated Biphenyls / blood
  • Prevalence
  • Risk Factors
  • Spain / epidemiology
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Young Adult


  • Environmental Pollutants
  • Hexachlorobenzene
  • Hexachlorocyclohexane
  • Polychlorinated Biphenyls
  • beta-hexachlorocyclohexane