In patients with cystic fibrosis, CF-related diabetes mellitus (CFRD) has been associated with increased morbidity and mortality. Whether glucose intolerance is also associated with poor outcomes is unclear. To better define these relationships we prospectively followed a group of 152 patients with CF without diabetes for 4 yr. Patients were classified as having normal glucose tolerance (NGT), impaired glucose tolerance (IGT), or CFRD without fasting hyperglycemia (CFRD-No FH). FEV(1), FVC, and body mass index (BMI) were measured at baseline and quarterly. At baseline 45% of the patients had NGT, 38.8% had IGT, and 15.8% had CFRD-No FH. FEV(1), FVC, and BMI at baseline were comparable among these groups (all p > 0.1). After 4 yr an overall decline in FEV(1) and FVC occurred, with no change in BMI. The rates of decline for FEV(1) and FVC correlated with the glucose tolerance groups, with the highest rates of decline occurring among the CFRD-No FH group. In addition, patients in the lowest quartile for insulin production at baseline experienced the highest rates of pulmonary function decline over time, suggesting a relationship between insulin deficiency and clinical deterioration. We conclude that the degree of glucose intolerance is a strong determinant of future lung function decline in patients with CF.