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Association between per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances exposure and risk of diabetes: a systematic review and meta-analysis

Abstract

Background

Emerging evidence suggests that per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are endocrine disruptors and may contribute to the etiology of diabetes.

Objectives

This study aimed to systematically review the epidemiological evidence on the associations of PFAS with mortality and morbidity of diabetes and to quantitatively evaluate the summary effect estimates of the existing literature.

Methods

We searched three electronic databases for epidemiological studies concerning PFAS and diabetes published before April 1, 2022. Summary odds ratio (OR), hazard ratio (HR), or β and their 95% confidence intervals (CIs) were respectively calculated to evaluate the association between PFAS and diabetes using random-effects model by the exposure type, and dose-response meta-analyses were also performed when possible. We also assessed the risk of bias of the studies included and the confidence in the body of evidence.

Results

An initial literature search identified 1969 studies, of which 22 studies were eventually included. The meta-analyses indicated that the observed statistically significant PFAS-T2DM associations were consistent in cohort studies, while the associations were almost non-significant in case-control and cross-sectional studies. Dose-response meta-analysis showed a “parabolic-shaped” association between perfluorooctanoate acid (PFOA) exposure and T2DM risk. Available evidence was rated with “low” risk of bias, and the level of evidence for PFAS and incident T2DM was considered “moderate”.

Conclusions

Our findings suggest that PFAS exposure may increase the risk of incident T2DM, and that PFOA may exert non-monotonic dose-response effect on T2DM risk. Considering the widespread exposure, persistence, and potential for adverse health effects of PFAS, further cohort studies with improvements in expanding the sample size, adjusting the covariates, and considering different types of PFAS exposure at various doses, are needed to elucidate the putative causal associations and potential mode of action of different PFAS on diabetes.

Impact Statement

A growing body of evidence suggests that per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are endocrine disruptors and may contribute to the development of diabetes. However, epidemiological evidence on the associations of PFAS and diabetes is inconsistent. We performed this comprehensive systematic review and meta-analysis to quantitatively synthesize the evidence. The findings of this study suggest that exposure to PFAS may increase diabetes risk among the general population. Reduced exposure to these “forever and everywhere chemicals” may be an important preventative approach to reducing the risk of diabetes across the population.

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Fig. 1
Fig. 2: Forest plots for the associations of individual PFAS exposure with risk of type 2 diabetes mellitus in case-control and cross-sectional studies.
Fig. 3: Forest plots for the associations of individual PFAS exposure with risk of type 2 diabetes mellitus in cohort studies.
Fig. 4: Dose-response association between perfluorooctanoic acid exposure and risk of type 2 diabetes mellitus.

Data availability

The dataset generated and/or analyzed in the current study can be obtained from the corresponding author on a reasonable request.

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Funding

This study was supported by Key Projects of Natural Science Research of Anhui Provincial Department of Education (KJ2020A0163) and National Natural Science Foundation of China (82070986).

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CYH and ZXJ conceived of and coordinated the study. SYG, JCQ, KXW, ZLL, KJW and YNC searched the literature, extracted and analyzed the data, and drafted the manuscript. SYG, JCQ, KXW, ZLL, KJW, YNC, and CYH interpreted the results and drafted and revised the manuscript. The authors read and approved the final manuscript.

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Correspondence to Zheng-Xuan Jiang or Cheng-Yang Hu.

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Gui, SY., Qiao, JC., Xu, KX. et al. Association between per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances exposure and risk of diabetes: a systematic review and meta-analysis. J Expo Sci Environ Epidemiol (2022). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41370-022-00464-3

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Keywords

  • Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances
  • Diabetes mellitus
  • Systematic review
  • Meta-analysis

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