Having COVID-19 appears to raise a person’s risk of developing diabetes within the next year by about 40%, according to a very large new study of patients treated at U.S. Veteran’s Administration health systems.

“The risk is small but not negligible,” says Ziyad Al-Aly, MD, one of the study researchers who is chief of research and development at the Veteran’s Administration St. Louis Health Care System in Missouri.

“It’s really, really clear that all these roads are pointing in one direction, that COVID-19 increases the risk of diabetes up to a year later,” he says.

The study, based on records from more than 8 million people and 180,000 who had COVID-19, was published this week in Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology by Yan Xie MPH, of Veterans Research and Education Foundation of Saint Louis, MO, along with Al-Aly.

The findings align with those from another study based on data from primary care in Germany. That study was smaller and of shorter length than the new VA study, but the results were consistent, says Al-Aly, who is also a clinical epidemiologist at Washington University School of Medicine.

The long-term implications of COVID-19 increasing diabetes risk are “profound,” write Venkat Narayan, MD, and Lisa R Staimez, PhD, both of the Rollins School of Public Health and Emory Global Diabetes Research Center at Emory University in Atlanta, in an editorial accompanying the new paper.

“Any COVID-19-related increases in diabetes incidence could lead to unprecedented cases of diabetes worldwide—wreaking havoc on already over-stretched and under-resourced clinical and public health systems globally, with devastating tolls in terms of deaths and suffering,” they write.

In the U.S., “this is going to translate to literally millions more people with new [cases of] diabetes,” says Al-Aly.

Read more about this research here on WebMD.