OBJECTIVE: To assess whether people with impaired glucose tolerance (IGT) exhibit an increased risk of atherosclerosis as measured by the thickness of the carotid artery. RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODS: We examined the relationship between glucose tolerance status and subclinical atherosclerosis in the Insulin Resistance Atherosclerosis Study (IRAS). The IRAS is an epidemiological study of 1,625 Hispanic, African-American, and white men and women, with approximately equal numbers of subjects with normal glucose tolerance (NGT), IGT, and type 2 diabetes as assessed by an oral glucose tolerance test. Half of those with diabetes were previously unaware of their condition and were defined as having new diabetes. Persons using insulin were excluded. The intima-media thickness (IMT) of the common carotid artery (CCA) and internal carotid artery (ICA) was measured as an index of subclinical atherosclerosis using B-mode ultrasonography. RESULTS: Adjusted for demographics and smoking, CCA-IMT increased most notably at the level of established diabetes (802, 822, 831, and 896 microm for NGT, IGT, new diabetes, and established diabetes, respectively). Adjustment for coronary heart disease (CHD) risk factors, which tended to worsen across glucose tolerance category, further minimized the slightly graded relationship. The relationship with the ICA-IMT was steeper and again suggested that the increased wall thickness is associated with diabetes, not with IGT. The relationship between glucose tolerance category and IMT was similar in men and women. CONCLUSIONS: We observed considerably greater IMT among persons with established diabetes but no significant increase in persons with IGT. These data suggest that the increased risk of CHD observed in persons with diabetes may largely develop after the onset of overt diabetes.

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