Rationale: Increased levels of systemic markers of inflammation have been reported in patients with impaired lung function due to obstructive or restrictive lung disease.
Objective: We tested the hypothesis that a decline in lung function within the normal range may be associated with a systemic subclinical inflammation.
Methods: Pulmonary function tests, cardiorespiratory fitness, components of the metabolic syndrome, and high-sensitivity C-reactive protein (CRP) were determined in 1,131 subjects without known pulmonary disease.
Measurements and main results: Ninety-six of the study participants (8.5%) had FEV(1) of less than 80% of predicted values. There was a strong inverse association between CRP levels and quartiles of FEV(1). The median CRP levels in nonsmoking participants were 2.5, 1.8, 1.7, and 1.3 mg/L in the first, second, third, and forth FEV(1) quartiles, respectively (p < 0.0001). A similar inverse association was present in smoking subjects (median CRP levels were 3.8, 2.3, 2.0, and 1.9 mg/L in the first, second, third, and fourth FEV(1) quartiles, respectively; p < 0.0001). These associations remained highly significant after adjustment for age, sex, components of the metabolic syndrome, and fitness level (p = 0.0005).
Conclusions: An inverse linear relationship exists between CRP concentrations and measures of pulmonary function in subjects without pulmonary disease and in never-smokers. These results indicate that systemic inflammation may be linked to early perturbations of pulmonary function.