Persistent Organic Pollutant-Mediated Insulin Resistance

Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2019 Feb 3;16(3):448. doi: 10.3390/ijerph16030448.


Persistent organic pollutants (POPs) such as organochlorine (OC) pesticides, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), polychlorinated dibenzo-p-dioxins (PCDDs), and polychlorinated dibenzofurans (PCDFs) have become wide-spread environmental contaminants as a consequence of their extensive use, long-range transport, and persistence. Because POPs are highly resistant to metabolic degradation, humans bioaccumulate these lipophilic and hydrophobic pollutants in fatty tissues for many years. Previous studies have demonstrated that POPs including PCBs are involved in the development of diabetes mellitus (DM) type 2 and insulin resistance. Numerous epidemiological studies suggest an association between POP burden and DM type 2/metabolic syndrome. In addition, several experimental studies have provided additional evidence supporting the association between POP exposure and DM type 2 or insulin resistance. Epidemiological and experimental studies have provided compelling evidence indicating that exposure to POPs increases the risk of developing insulin resistance and metabolic disorders. However, the detailed molecular mechanism underlying POP-induced insulin resistance is yet to be elucidated. In this article, we review literature that has reported on the association between POP burden and insulin resistance and the mechanism underlying POP-induced insulin resistance, and discuss implications for public health.

Keywords: insulin resistance; persistent organic pollutants.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / epidemiology*
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / physiopathology
  • Environmental Exposure / statistics & numerical data*
  • Environmental Pollution / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Hydrocarbons, Chlorinated / pharmacology*
  • Insulin Resistance / physiology*
  • Metabolic Syndrome / epidemiology*
  • Metabolic Syndrome / physiopathology
  • Pesticides / pharmacology
  • Polychlorinated Biphenyls / pharmacology
  • Polychlorinated Dibenzodioxins / pharmacology


  • Hydrocarbons, Chlorinated
  • Pesticides
  • Polychlorinated Dibenzodioxins
  • Polychlorinated Biphenyls