Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are widely used chemicals, some of which have been linked to type 2 diabetes. We tested whether PFAS concentrations were cross-sectionally associated with metabolites previously shown to predict incident type 2 diabetes using the Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP), a trial of individuals at high risk of type 2 diabetes.
We evaluated 691 participants enrolled in the DPP with baseline measures of 10 PFAS (including total perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS), total perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), and Sb-PFOA [branched isomers of PFOA]) and 77 metabolites. We used log-transformed PFAS concentrations as exposures and standardized metabolite concentrations as outcomes in linear regression models adjusted for age, sex, race/ethnicity, use of anti-hyperlipidemic or triglyceride-lowering medication, income, years of education, marital status, smoking, and family history of diabetes, with Benjamini-Hochberg linear step-up false discovery rate correction.
Sb-PFOA was associated with the largest number of tested metabolites (29 of 77). Each doubling in Sb-PFOA was associated with higher leucine (β = 0.07 [95%CI: 0.02, 0.11] SD) and lower glycine (-0.08 [95%CI: 0.03, -0.13] SD). Each doubling of either total PFOA or n-PFOA was associated with -0.13 [95%CI: 0.04, -0.22] SD lower glycine. PFOA and Sb-PFOA were positively associated with multiple triacylglycerols and diacylglycerols, and total PFOS, total PFOA, and Sb-PFOA were positively associated with phosphatidylethanolamines.
PFAS concentrations are associated with metabolites linked to type 2 diabetes (particularly amino acid, glycerolipid and glycerophospholipid pathways). Further prospective research is needed to test whether these metabolites mediate associations of PFAS and type 2 diabetes.