Early-life arsenic exposure promotes atherogenic lipid metabolism in adolescence: A 15-year birth cohort follow-up study in central Taiwan

Environ Int. 2018 Sep;118:97-105. doi: 10.1016/j.envint.2018.05.033. Epub 2018 May 31.


Background: Inorganic arsenic (iAs) exposure potentially causes diabetes and cardiovascular diseases in adults. However, its effect on glucose and lipid metabolism in early life remains unknown.

Objective: We evaluated the associations between early-life arsenic exposure and profiles of glucose and lipids in a 15-year birth cohort in central Taiwan.

Methods: We studied 237 adolescents through 5 waves of follow-up interviews and examinations at ages of approximately 2, 5, 8, 11, and 14 y. We obtained at least one follow-up urine measurement for arsenic species and blood sample collection up to 14 y of age and identified group-based trajectories of serial iAs by semiparametric mixture modeling. Multiple linear and logistic regressions were performed to assess the effect of the arsenic exposure trajectory on serum fasting glucose, total cholesterol (TCHO), triglycerides (TGs), low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL), and high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL).

Results: Three trajectories of postnatal arsenic exposure were identified, namely stable-low (31.4%), stable-high (48.2%), and rising-high (20.4%) groups. Compared with the stable-low trajectory group, the percent changes in TCHO and LDL was 14% (95% confidence interval 4-24%) and 23% (9-38%) for the group with "rising-high" trajectory and was 8% (-1-16%) and 16% (4-29%) for the group with "stable-high" trajectory. The rising-high group was also associated with an increase in the TCHO/HDL ratio by 14% (95% CI 3%-25%). The adjusted odds ratios of high developmental trajectories of TCHO, TG, LDL, and non-HDL levels were 4.0 (95% CI 1.2-13.7), 12.2 (2.2-67), 7.3 (1.8-30), and 3.6 (0.9-14.6), respectively, in the rising-high group (reference: stable-low group).

Conclusion: Our findings suggest that conversion to an atherogenic lipid profile in adolescents may be associated with early-life exposure to environmental arsenic, particularly during the pre-adolescent period. An environmental modification approach for preventing As-related cardiovascular disease is recommended to begin early in life.

Keywords: Arsenic; Birth cohort; Glucose metabolism; Insulin resistance; Lipid profile; Trajectory.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Arsenic / adverse effects*
  • Atherosclerosis / blood*
  • Atherosclerosis / epidemiology*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Environmental Exposure / statistics & numerical data*
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Lipid Metabolism
  • Lipids / blood*
  • Taiwan / epidemiology


  • Lipids
  • Arsenic