Potential obesogenic effect of a complex contaminant mixture on Cree First Nations adults of Northern Québec, Canada

Environ Res. 2021 Jan:192:110478. doi: 10.1016/j.envres.2020.110478. Epub 2020 Nov 16.


Background: Obesity incidence and prevalence is of increasing concern in First Nations communities around Canada. In addition to diet and physical activity, environmental pollutants have been suggested as a potential contributory factor to obesity associated morbidity. Owing to the exposure of Cree First Nations people to various persistent organic pollutants (POPs) and toxic metals, it is important to examine the association between obesity in these communities, and contaminant body burdens.

Objective: To determine whether selected morphometry measures (body mass index [BMI], waist circumference [WC] and body fat percentage) are associated with body burdens of 10 POPs and toxic metals.

Methods: Using data from the Nituuchischaayihtitaau Aschii Multi-community Environment-and-Health study in the eastern James Bay (Eeyou Istchee) Cree communities, this cross-sectional study examined morphometric and contaminant measures of 695 eligible participants. Sex stratified principal component analysis was conducted on blood plasma concentrations of 10 POPs and toxic metals. BMI, WC, body fat percent, and resultant contaminant components were used to create generalized linear models, and adjusted for covariates (age, total lipids, smoking, and n-3 fatty acids).

Results: Two principal components (PCs; PC-1 and PC-2) were extracted for both males and females. For females, PC-1 explained 73.3% and PC-2 explained 10.5%, and for males, PC-1 explained 71.6% and PC-2 explained 11.2% of the variance in contaminant burden. For both sexes, PC-1 loaded highly for polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) congeners, organochlorine pesticides and, to a lesser extent, mercury and lead. PC-2 loaded highly for cadmium for females, and cadmium and lead for males. After adjusting for covariates, the generalized linear model showed that PC-2 was significantly and negatively associated with BMI, body fat percent, and WC in males and females.

Conclusions: Our cross-sectional analysis indicates a negative association between cadmium with various obesity measures in both males and females. Null associations were found between PCBs and organochlorine pesticides and morphometry.

Keywords: Cree first nations; Obesogens; Organochlorines; PCBs; Toxic metals.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Canada
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Environmental Pollutants* / analysis
  • Environmental Pollutants* / toxicity
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Polychlorinated Biphenyls* / toxicity
  • Quebec / epidemiology


  • Environmental Pollutants
  • Polychlorinated Biphenyls

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