Health effects of exposure to undesired substances via food and drinking water

Because many potentially harmful substances such as environmental contaminants are present in the environment it is impossible to completely avoid their presence in food and drinking water. In fact, food and drinking water have become primary sources of exposure to an array of these substances. Moreover, even some of the most important and nutritious foods from a health point of view, can be dominating source.

The overall aim of this area of research is to assess any potential health effect associated with the exposure to these undesired substances and to disentangle the benefits and risks of exposure through healthy foods. The projects are joint ventures between epidemiologists (nutritional epidemiology) and toxicologists. In the text below the major research projects are listed.

Persistent organochlorine pollutants in food and risk of major chronic diseases

Many persistent environmental pollutants including PCBs, dioxines and also methylmercury bioaccumulate in the food chain – especially in fish. PCBs have been proposed to play a role in the development of cardiovascular diseases (CVD) and diabetes. Moreover, PCBs are classified as carcinogenic to humans and some PCBs may have hormone disruption properties. In this project we assess the association between validated estimates of dietary PCB exposure and risk of cardiovascular diseases (myocardial infarction, stroke, heart failure), and hormone-related cancers (breast endometrium, ovary and prostate). We take into account the concomitant intake of long-chain n-3 fatty acids – the essential fats also present in fatty fish.

Contact persons

Financing

  • Swedish Research Council for Environment, Agricultural Sciences and Spatial Planning, Formas
  • Swedish Cancer Society

Cadmium exposure in relation to bone health, hormone-related cancers and cardiovascular diseases

There is widespread low-level cadmium contamination of agricultural soil. Cadmium is easily taken up by crops such as cereals, vegetables, and potatoes – which are the major sources, but occurs also in high concentrations in shellfish, offal, and certain seeds. The toxic effects of Cd were initially considered to be limited kidney damage. More recently, other cadmium-related adverse effects have been reported at low-level environmental exposures, and a shift in the strategy for assessment of cadmium risks in the general population, is stressed. These potential health effects include osteoporosis and fractures, cancer and cardiovascular disease.

Contact person

Financing

  • Swedish Research Council/Medicine
  • Swedish Research Council for Environment, Agricultural Sciences and Spatial Planning, Formas
  • Swedish Cancer Society

Perfluorinated substances (PFAS) and cardiometabolic health

 PFAS are man-made chemicals similar to fatty acids (having both fat and water repellent function), used in common household consumer products. By affecting nuclear receptors in the body PFAS may affect several metabolic processes, altering the normal physiological responses. All people are exposed to these substances mostly via food. Moreover, in several areas in Sweden groundwater has been contaminated. We aim to investigate the association between the PFAS in blood and cardiometabolic risk factors (dyslipidemia, hypertension and obesity) and risk of diabetes type 2. For this purpose, we will apply a prospective nested case-control study design utilizing bio-banked blood with a long follow-up of incident diabetes type 2.

Financing

  • Martin Rinds Stiftelse

Combined chemical and microbial drinking water related health risks (multidisciplinary risks)

Drinking water is our most important foodstuff and for major parts in Sweden drinking water with adequate quality is easily produced due to high quantities of good quality raw water. This is, however, not the case in all regions and therefore complex protective measurements have been undertaken during production and distribution of the drinking water. The overall aim of this project is to generate new knowledge of combined chemical and microbial drinking water related health risks (multidisciplinary risks) for fetuses and children, the most sensitive group for these exposures. Two of the main parts in the study is to assess the risk of developmental defects related to drinking water chlorination, by using data from several Swedish health related registers; and to assess the risk of drinking water related gastrointestinal illness among children by using data from several Swedish cohorts on drinking water related gastroenteritis.

Financing

  • Swedish Research Council for Environment, Agricultural Sciences and Spatial Planning, Formas
EpidemiologyNutrition