Tobacco use, insulin resistance, and risk of type 2 diabetes: Results from the multi-ethnic study of atherosclerosis

Rachel J. Keith, Mahmoud Al Rifai, Christopher Carruba, Natasha De Jarnett, John W. McEvoy, Aruni Bhatnagar, Michael J. Blaha, Andrew P. Defilippis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


Introduction: Tobacco use is associated with insulin resistance and incident diabetes. Given the racial/ethnic differences in smoking patterns and incident type 2 diabetes our objective was to evaluate the association between tobacco use and insulin resistance (IR) as well as incident type 2 diabetes mellitus in a contemporary multiethnic cohort. Methods and Results: We studied 5,931 Multi- Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA) participants who at base-line were free of type 2 diabetes (fasting glucose ≥7.0 mmol/l (126 mg/dl) and/or use of insulin or oral hypoglycemic medications) categorized by self-reported tobacco status and reclassified by urinary cotinine (available in 58% of participants) as never, current or former tobacco users. The association between tobacco use, IR (fasting plasma glucose, insulin, and the homeostatic model assessment of insulin resistance (HOMA-IR)) and incident diabetes over 10 years was evaluated using multivariable linear regression and Cox proportional hazards models, respectively. Mean age of the participants was 62 (±10) years, 46% were male, 41% Caucasian, 12% Chinese, 26% African American and 21% Hispanic/Latino. IR biomarkers did not significantly differ between current, former, and never cigarette users (P >0.10) but showed limited unadjusted differences for users of cigar, pipe and smokeless tobacco (All P <0.05). Fully adjusted models showed no association between dose or intensity of tobacco exposure and any index of IR. When stratified into participants that quit smoking vs. those who continued smoking during the 10-year study there was no difference in serum glucose levels or frequency of diabetes. In fully adjusted models, there was no significant difference in diabetes risk between former or current cigarette smokers compared to never smokers [HR (95% CI) 1.02 (0.77,1.37) and 0.81 (0.52,1.26) respectively]. Conclusion: In a contemporary multi-ethnic cohort, there was no independent association between tobacco use and IR or incident type 2 diabetes. The role smoking plays in causing diabetes may be more complicated than originally thought and warrants more in-depth large contemporary multi-ethnic studies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere0157592
JournalPloS one
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2016

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • General


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