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

Given that 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 the 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 a dominating source.

The overall aim of this area of research is to assess any potential health effects 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.

Perfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) and cardiovascular disease

PFAS are man-made chemicals that are like fatty acids (having both fat and water repellent characteristics), used in common household consumer products. By affecting nuclear receptors in the body, PFAS may influence several metabolic processes and alter 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 PFAS in blood and cardiometabolic risk factors (dyslipidemia, hypertension) and risk of myocardial infarction, stroke and diabetes type 2. For this purpose, we implement a prospective nested case-control study design utilizing bio-banked blood with a long follow-up of incident cases. Furthermore, through the use of metabolomics, we will explore PFAS-related metabolic patterns to improve mechanistic insight.

Contact person

Financing

  • Swedish Research Council/Medicine
  • EU-project HBM4EU
  • Martin Rinds Stiftelse
     

Persistent organochlorine pollutants in food and risk of major chronic diseases

Many persistent environmental pollutants including polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), and dioxins bioaccumulate in the food chain – especially in fish. PCBs have been proposed to play a role in the development of cardiovascular diseases  and diabetes. Moreover, PCBs are classified as carcinogenic to humans and some PCBs may have hormone disrupting properties. In this project we assess the association of validated estimates of dietary PCB exposure as well as biomarkers of exposure with risk of hypertension and cardiovascular diseases (myocardial infarction and stroke). We also explore the associations with hormone-related cancers (breast endometrium, ovary and prostate). Additionally, we consider 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
  • Swedish Research Council/Medicine

 

Drinking water and health – combined health risk assessment of chemical and microbial related health risks

Drinking water is our most important foodstuff. In major parts of Sweden, drinking water with adequate quality is easily produced due to high quantities of good quality raw water. In some regions, this is however not the case, and therefore complex protective measures have been undertaken during production and distribution of the drinking water. Some of these measures may alter the chemical composition of drinking water, and the health consequences of this are currently unknown. The overall aim of this project is to generate new knowledge of combined chemical and microbial drinking water related health risks in fetuses, children and adults. We will assess the risk of exposure to drinking water chlorination by-products, PFAS, fluoride, calcium, and magnesium. We utilize data from the medical birth register as well as data from several population-based prospective cohorts. The outcomes include developmental effects in newborns, gastrointestinal illness among children and cancer, cardiovascular diseases and bone health among adults.

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 to kidney damage. More recently, other cadmium-related adverse effects have been reported at low-level environmental exposures, that may lead to a shift in the strategy for assessment of cadmium risks in the general population. 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