BACKGROUND: Several persistent organochlorine pollutants (POPs) possess endocrine disrupting abilities, thereby potentially leading to an increased risk of obesity and metabolic diseases, especially if the exposure occurs during prenatal life. We have previously found associations between prenatal POP exposures and increased BMI, waist circumference and change in BMI from 5 to 7 years of age, though only among girls with overweight mothers.
OBJECTIVES: In the same birth cohort, we investigated whether prenatal POP exposure was associated with serum concentrations of insulin and leptin among 5-year-old children, thus possibly mediating the association with overweight and obesity at 7 years of age.
METHODS: The analyses were based on a prospective Faroese Birth Cohort (n=656), recruited between 1997 and 2000. Major POPs, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), p,p'-dichlorodiphenyldichloroethylene (DDE) and hexachlorobenzene (HCB), were measured in maternal pregnancy serum and breast milk. Children were followed-up at the age of 5 years where a non-fasting blood sample was drawn; 520 children (273 boys and 247 girls) had adequate serum amounts available for biomarker analyses by Luminex® technology. Insulin and leptin concentrations were transformed from continuous to binary variables, using the 75th percentile as a cut-off point. Multiple logistic regression was used to investigate associations between prenatal POP exposures and non-fasting serum concentrations of insulin and leptin at age 5 while taking into account confounders.
RESULTS: Girls with highest prenatal POP exposure were more likely to have high non-fasting insulin levels (PCBs 4th quartile: OR=3.71; 95% CI: 1.36, 10.01. DDE 4th quartile: OR=2.75; 95% CI: 1.09, 6.90. HCB 4th quartile: OR=1.98; 95% CI: 1.06, 3.69) compared to girls in the lowest quartile. No significant associations were observed with leptin, or among boys. A mediating effect of insulin or leptin on later obesity was not observed.
CONCLUSION: These findings suggest, that for girls, prenatal exposure to POPs may play a role for later development of metabolic diseases by affecting the level of insulin.