The recent COVID-19 pandemic, which saw an increased risk of subsequent diabetes among persons with COVID-19 as well as greater casualties among persons with diabetes, has brought renewed attention to the role of lung function in diabetes. We tested the relationship of lung function and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) with diabetes in a population of current and former smokers.

Using data from the COPD Genetic Epidemiology (COPDGene) cohort, we conducted a diabetes follow-up (2012-2018) of a cohort of Black and White current and former smokers with (n=2442) and w/out (n=2214) COPD, aged 39-85 years and w/out diabetes at cohort entry. Lung function was modeled using Forced Expiratory Volume at 1 second % predicted (FEV1%P) . COPD was defined as the ratio of FEV1% to FVC% <0.7. Logistic regression was used to compute ORs (95% CIs) for risk of incident diabetes.

The incidence of diabetes was 8% over the five years of follow-up, representing a 43% increase in prevalence. After controlling for age, sex, and race, COPD at baseline was a significant risk factor for diabetes (OR=1.51, 1.21-1.88) . Significant interaction existed between baseline COPD and baseline Fev1%p (p-interaction=0.01) , such that Fev1%p only predicted diabetes among those w/out (OR=0.98, 0.96-0.99) but not among those with COPD at baseline (OR=0.99, 0.99-1.00) . Upon stratification by race, Fev1%p was a significant predictor among Blacks but not Whites, but effect modification by race was not observed. Blacks were at twice the risk of diabetes overall (OR=2.04, 1.59-2.60) and were at 3 times the risk among those w/out COPD (OR=2.91, 1.98-4.27) . BMI increased risk in both races regardless of COPD status; however, a higher BMI was a stronger risk factor for diabetes among Whites than Blacks, particularly for those with baseline COPD (race*BMI interaction p=0.06) .

In this large population of current and former smokers, our data suggest that lower lung function prior to the development of COPD is a risk factor for diabetes, particularly among Blacks. BMI is an important risk factor in both races, but appears to play a stronger role among Whites.


R. B. Conway: None. K. Young: None. Y. Li: Employee; Vertex Pharmaceuticals Incorporated. E. Austin: None. G. L. Kinney: None.


National Institutes of Health (U01HL089897)

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