Association of blood polychlorinated biphenyls and cholesterol levels among Canadian Inuit

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Abstract

Background

It has generally been thought that Inuit populations have low risk of cardiovascular disease due to high consumption of omega-3 fatty acids found in traditional marine-based diets. However, results of recent surveys showed that Inuit populations are experiencing increasing rates of cardiovascular disease and related risk factors.

Objective

The purpose of this study was to investigate if blood polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) are associated with high cholesterol and related parameters in Canadian Inuit, known risk factors for cardiovascular disease.

Methods

The Adult Inuit Health Survey (IHS, 2007–2008) included 2595 Inuit participants from three regions of the Canadian Arctic, of which 2191 could be classified as with or without high cholesterol. The high cholesterol outcome was defined by LDL-C > 3.36 mmol/L or taking medication(s) that reduce cholesterol, and was examined in adjusted logistic regression models with individual blood levels of PCB congeners, sum of dioxin-like PCBs (ΣDL-PCBs), or sum of non-dioxin-like PCBs (ΣNDL-PCBs). Statistically significant covariates for high cholesterol were ranked in importance according to the proportion of the model log likelihood explained. Continuous clinical parameters of total cholesterol, triglycerides, LDL-C, and HDL-C were examined in multiple linear regression models with ΣDL-PCBs or ΣNDL-PCBs.

Results

A total of 719 participants had high cholesterol (32.8%). PCBs were associated with increased risk of high cholesterol, and higher levels of serum triglycerides, total cholesterol, and LDL-C. No association was observed between PCBs and serum HDL-C. With respect to other statistically significant covariates for high cholesterol, the log likelihood ranking of PCBs generally fell between body mass index (BMI) and age.

Conclusion

Further work is needed to corroborate the associations observed with PCBs and lipids in Canadian Inuit and to examine if they are causal in the direction anticipated.

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