The responses of glucagon, growth hormone, and insulin secretion to the oral administration of glucose and to the intravenous infusion of saline, arginine, and insulin were measured in seven patients who had stable diabetes, eight who had unstable diabetes, and seven healthy volunteers. Hyperglycemia suppressed secretion of glucagon in normal subjects but not in diabetics. The oral glucose and arginine infusion tests demonstrated partial preservation of insulin-secretory ability in stable diabetics and its virtual absence in unstable diabetics. Glucagon responses to arginine infusion were similar in all three groups. In response to hypoglycemia induced by insulin infusion, the concentrations of plasma glucagon increased in normal subjects and, to a lesser extent, in stable diabetics but increased in only two of the unstable diabetics. The impairment in glucagon response during hypoglycemia in diabetics correlated positively with the degree of diabetic instability and insulin deficiency during glucose and arginine testing. The severity of the insulin deficiency also correlated with the degree of diabetic instability. These findings support the hypothesis that inherent abnormalities of insulin and glucagon secretion may account for many of the clinical characteristics of unstable and stable diabetic patients.

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