OBJECTIVE Elevated fasting glucose level is associated with increased carotid intima-media thickness (IMT), a measure of subclinical atherosclerosis. It is unclear if this association is causal. Using the principle of Mendelian randomization, we sought to explore the causal association between circulating glucose and IMT by examining the association of a genetic risk score with IMT.
RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODS The sample was drawn from the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities (ARIC) study and included 7,260 nondiabetic Caucasian individuals with IMT measurements and relevant genotyping. Components of the fasting glucose genetic risk score (FGGRS) were selected from a fasting glucose genome-wide association study in ARIC. The score was created by combining five single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) (rs780094 [GCKR], rs560887 [G6PC2], rs4607517 [GCK], rs13266634 [SLC30A8], and rs10830963 [MTNR1B]) and weighting each SNP by its strength of association with fasting glucose. IMT was measured through bilateral carotid ultrasound. Mean IMT was regressed on the FGGRS and on the component SNPs, individually.
RESULTS The FGGRS was significantly associated (P = 0.009) with mean IMT. The difference in IMT predicted by a 1 SD increment in the FGGRS (0.0048 mm) was not clinically relevant but was larger than would have been predicted based on observed associations between the FFGRS, fasting glucose, and IMT. Additional adjustment for baseline measured glucose in regression models attenuated the association by about one third.
CONCLUSIONS The significant association of the FGGRS with IMT suggests a possible causal association of elevated fasting glucose with atherosclerosis, although it may be that these loci influence IMT through nonglucose pathways.
The costs of publication of this article were defrayed in part by the payment of page charges. This article must therefore be hereby marked “advertisement” in accordance with 18 U.S.C. Section 1734 solely to indicate this fact.
- Received June 16, 2010.
- Accepted October 18, 2010.
- © 2011 by the American Diabetes Association.
Readers may use this article as long as the work is properly cited, the use is educational and not for profit, and the work is not altered. See http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/ for details.