Polychlorinated Biphenyls and Organochlorine Pesticides in Plasma Predict Development of Type 2 Diabetes in the Elderly

The Prospective Investigation of the Vasculature in Uppsala Seniors (PIVUS) study

  1. Lars Lind, MD, PHD6
  1. 1Department of Preventative Medicine, School of Medicine, Kyungpook National University, Daegu, Korea
  2. 2Department of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, Uppsala University, Uppsala, Sweden
  3. 3Division of Epidemiology and Community Health, School of Public Health, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, Minnesota
  4. 4Department of Nutrition, University of Oslo, Oslo, Norway
  5. 5MTM Research Center, School of Science and Technology, Örebro University, Örebro, Sweden
  6. 6Acute and Internal Medicine, Department of Medicine, Uppsala University Hospital, Uppsala, Sweden
  1. Corresponding author: Lars Lind, lars.lind{at}


OBJECTIVE Persistent organic pollutants (POPs), lipophilic chemicals that accumulate mainly in adipose tissue, have recently been linked to type 2 diabetes. However, evidence from prospective studies is sparse. This study was performed to evaluate prospective associations of type 2 diabetes with selected POPs among the elderly.

RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODS Nineteen POPs (14 polychlorinated biphenyl [PCB] congeners, 3 organochlorine pesticides, 1 brominated diphenyl ether, and 1 dioxin) were measured in plasma collected at baseline in 725 participants, aged 70 years, of the Prospective Investigation of the Vasculature in Uppsala Seniors (PIVUS).

RESULTS After adjusting for known type 2 diabetes risk factors, including obesity, odds ratios (ORs) (95% CIs) for type 2 diabetes at age 75 years (n = 36) according to the quintiles of a summary measure of concentrations of PCBs (vs. the lowest quintile) were 4.5, 5.1, 8.8 (1.8–42.7), and 7.5 (1.4–38.8) (Ptrend <0.01). Among organochlorine pesticides, adjusted ORs across concentrations of trans-nonachlor showed that Ptrend = 0.03. Adjusted ORs (95% CIs) across quintiles of the sum of three organochlorine pesticides were 1.1, 1.6, 1.5, and 3.4 (1.0–11.7) (Ptrend = 0.03). Neither brominated diphenyl ether 47 nor dioxin was significantly associated with incident diabetes. The sum of PCBs improved reclassification significantly when added to traditional risk factors for diabetes.

CONCLUSIONS Despite the small number of incident cases, this study found that environmental exposure to some POPs substantially increased risk of future type 2 diabetes in an elderly population.


  • Received November 10, 2010.
  • Accepted May 23, 2011.

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  1. Diabetes Care vol. 34 no. 8 1778-1784
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