Evaluating the impact of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon bioaccumulation in adipose tissue of obese women

Sara Sousa, Paula Paíga, Diogo Pestana, Gil Faria, Cristina Delerue-Matos, Maria João Ramalhosa, Conceição Calhau, Valentina Fernandes Domingues

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1 Citation (Scopus)


Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) are widespread across the environment and humans are unavoidably and constantly exposed to them. As lipophilic contaminants, these substances tend to accumulate in fatty tissues as adipose tissue and exposure to these endocrine disruptors has been associated with severe health hazards including prevalence and incidence of obesity. Previous studies have shown significantly higher concentrations of PAHs in adipose tissue compared to other human samples, such as urine and plasma, which are typically used for PAHs assessment. Therefore, conducting biomonitoring studies in adipose tissue is essential, although such studies are currently limited. In this study, the concentrations of 18 PAHs were measured in subcutaneous (scAT) and visceral adipose tissue (vAT) of 188 Portuguese obese females by high performance liquid chromatography (HPLC). The obtained results were then associated with the patient's data namely: 13 clinical, 4 social, and 42 biochemical parameters. Seventeen PAHs were present, at least, in one sample of both scAT and vAT, most of them with detection frequencies higher than 80%. Indeno [1,2,3-cd]pyrene (InP) was the only PAH never detected. Overall higher concentrations of PAHs were observed in scAT. Median concentrations of ∑PAHs were 32.2 ± 10.0 ng/g in scAT and 24.6 ± 10.0 ng/g in vAT. Thirty-six significant associations (7 with social, 18 with clinical, and 11 with biochemical parameters), including 21 Spearman's correlations were identified (12 positive and 9 negative correlations). Indicating the potential effects of PAHs on various parameters such as obesity evolution, body fat, number of adipocytes, total cholesterol, alkaline phosphatase, macrominerals, uric acid, sedimentation velocity, and luteinizing hormone. This study underscores the significance of biomonitoring PAH levels in adipose tissue and their potential effects on metabolic health. Further research is essential to fully comprehend the metabolic implications of PAHs in the human body and to develop strategies for obesity prevention and treatment.

Original languageEnglish
Article number141673
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2024


  • Biomonitoring
  • Endocrine disruptor
  • Obesity
  • Persistent organic pollutant


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