The relationship between insulin secretion, the insulin-like growth factor axis and growth in children with cystic fibrosis

Clin Endocrinol (Oxf). 2002 Mar;56(3):383-9. doi: 10.1046/j.1365-2265.2002.01484.x.


Objective: Cystic fibrosis-related diabetes mellitus (CFRD) is an increasingly common complication of cystic fibrosis. CFRD is preceded by a progressive decline in insulin secretion but there is no accepted definition of the prediabetic state in CFRD. This prediabetic state appears to have adverse effects on clinical status, nutrition and lung function, but there is no direct evidence that the impaired glucose homeostasis is the cause of these deteriorations. This study examined the prevalence of glucose intolerance and impaired insulin secretion in a population of children with CF without CFRD. Severe CF lung disease is often associated with poor weight gain and slower growth but the mechanism for this is still unclear. The relationships between the current state of glucose homeostasis, insulin secretion and the insulin-like growth factor axis, height velocity, nutrition status and lung function were therefore studied.

Design and patients: Eighteen children with cystic fibrosis aged 9.5-15 years had oral glucose tolerance tests and 14 of these also had intravenous glucose tolerance tests (four refused). Blood samples were collected for insulin, C-peptide, glucose, HbA1c, insulin-like growth factor (IGF)-I, IGF-II, IGF-binding protein (IGFBP)-1 and IGFBP-3. Data on height, weight, puberty status, clinical score (Shwachman score) and lung function were recorded. Height velocity, height and weight standard deviation scores (SDS) were calculated using WHO/CDC data.

Results: The mean height SDS (-0.52 +/- 0.17) was less than the normal population (P = 0.007) and the mean height velocity was 4.6 +/- 0.5 cm/year, 39% with a height velocity less than the third percentile for age. The weight SDS and body mass index (BMI) were similar to the normal population. Four children had impaired glucose tolerance. The first-phase insulin response (FPIR) was below the first percentile of normal population values in nine (65%). Impaired FPIR or impaired glucose tolerance did not correlate with the Shwachman score, nutritional status or pulmonary function. There was a significant positive correlation between insulin secretion (area under the curve) and height velocity (P = 0.001) and serum IGFBP-3 levels (P = 0.001).

Conclusions: Impaired glucose tolerance was present in 20% of children with cystic fibrosis. Impaired insulin secretion was common (65%) even in children with normal glucose tolerance. The mean height SDS for the group was low and the height velocity was abnormally slow in 39%, yet nutritional status as measured by BMI was appropriate for age. Relative insulin deficiency rather than nutritional deprivation or poor clinical status thus appears to be implicated in the poor linear growth of these children with relatively stable lung disease. This was a small study and firm conclusions on this chronic suppurative disease as to the cause of poor growth are not possible. The causes of poor growth are likely to be complex; nevertheless, the apparent decrease in insulin secretion combined with the expected increased demands on insulin production during pubertal growth raises the question as to whether insulin therapy should be considered in children with cystic fibrosis before the onset of cystic fibrosis-related diabetes mellitus.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Body Height
  • Child
  • Cystic Fibrosis / blood
  • Cystic Fibrosis / complications*
  • Cystic Fibrosis / physiopathology
  • Female
  • Glucose Intolerance / etiology*
  • Glucose Tolerance Test
  • Growth Disorders / etiology*
  • Humans
  • Insulin / blood
  • Insulin / metabolism*
  • Insulin Secretion
  • Insulin-Like Growth Factor Binding Proteins / blood*
  • Male
  • Nutritional Status


  • Insulin
  • Insulin-Like Growth Factor Binding Proteins