Eleven insulin-dependent (type I) diabetic subjects were studied during a 24-h period to assess intraday blood glucose (BG) variation and related free insulin (FI) levels. Ten patients exhibited the dawn phenomenon, a rise in early morning fasting blood glucose (123 ± 81.1 m/dl; mean ± SD). This increase was positively and significantly correlated with the morning postprandial BG peak (r = 0.723; P = 0.012). FI/BG ratios were highest during the night (0.717 and 0.666 at 2200 and 0400 h, respectively) and lowest during the early morning (0.294 at 0800 h) (P < 0.01). Three of the four observed hypoglycemic episodes occurred during the period when free insulin levels were high relative to BG. We conclude that the dawn phenomenon contributed directly and significantly to the BG maximum and indirectly, in some cases, to nocturnal hypoglycemia. It thus played an important role in the intraday blood glucose variation of such patients.

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