Changes in glucose metabolism occurring during counterregulation are, in part, mediated by increased plasma free fatty acids (FFAs), as a result of hypoglycemia-activated lipolysis. However, it is not known whether FFA plays a role in the development of posthypoglycemic insulin resistance as well.


We conducted a series of studies in eight healthy volunteers using acipimox, an inhibitor of lipolysis. Insulin action was measured during a 2-h hyperinsulinemic-euglycemic clamp (plasma glucose [PG] 5.1 mmo/l) from 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. or after a 3-h morning hyperinsulinemic-glucose clamp (from 10 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.), either euglycemic (study 1) or hypoglycemic (PG 3.2 mmol/l, studies 2–4), during which FFA levels were allowed to increase (study 2), were suppressed by acipimox (study 3), or were replaced by infusing lipids (study 4). [6,6-2H2]-Glucose was infused to measure glucose fluxes.


Plasma adrenaline, norepinephrine, growth hormone, and cortisol levels were unchanged (P > 0.2). Glucose infusion rates (GIRs) during the euglycemic clamp were reduced by morning hypoglycemia in study 2 versus study 1 (16.8 ± 2.3 vs. 34.1 ± 2.2 µmol/kg/min, respectively, P < 0.001). The effect was largely removed by blockade of lipolysis during hypoglycemia in study 3 (28.9 ± 2.6 µmol/kg/min, P > 0.2 vs. study 1) and largely reproduced by replacement of FFA in study 4 (22.3 ± 2.8 µmol/kg/min, P < 0.03 vs. study 1). Compared with study 2, blockade of lipolysis in study 3 decreased endogenous glucose production (2 ± 0.3 vs. 0.85 ± 0.1 µmol/kg/min, P < 0.05) and increased glucose utilization (16.9 ± 1.85 vs. 28.5 ± 2.7 µmol/kg/min, P < 0.05). In study 4, GIR fell by ~23% (22.3 ± 2.8 µmol/kg/min, vs. study 3, P = 0.058), indicating a role of acipimox per se on insulin action.


Lipolysis induced by hypoglycemia counterregulation largely mediates posthypoglycemic insulin resistance in healthy subjects, with an estimated overall contribution of ~39%.


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