Persistent organic pollutants (POPs) are endocrine-disrupting chemicals associated with the development of the metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes. In humans, little is known about their role in the potential origin of obesity. This study aims to assess the associations between serum levels of POPs and the prevalence of obesity in a cohort of obese and lean adult men and women. POP serum samples were investigated cross-sectionally in 98 obese and 47 lean participants, aged ≥18 years. Serum samples were analyzed for the presence of polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) congeners 153, 138, 180, and 170 and for the organochlorine pesticides, dichloro-diphenyl-dichloroethylene (pp-DDE), and β-hexachlorocyclohexane (βHCH). We established a significant negative correlation between BMI, waist, fat mass percentage, total and subcutaneous abdominal adipose tissue, and serum levels of PCB 153, 180, 170, and the sumPCBs. For βHCH, we demonstrated a positive correlation with BMI, waist, fat mass percentage, and total and subcutaneous abdominal adipose tissue. PCBs 180, 170, and the sum of PCBs correlated significantly negative with homeostasis model assessment for insulin resistance (HOMA(IR)). βHCH correlated significantly positively with HOMA(IR). A strong correlation was established between all POP serum levels and age. We established a positive relationship between high serum levels of βHCH and BMI and HOMA(IR), whereas serum PCB levels were inversely correlated with BMI and HOMA(IR). Combined, these results suggest that the diabetogenic effect of low-dose exposure to POPs might be more complicated than a simple obesogenic effect.
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