The glucoregulatory and hormonal responses to moderate-intensity exercise (50% VO2max for 45 min) were examined in subjects with type 2 diabetes and mild hyperglycemia. We studied seven obese subjects with type 2 diabetes and seven lean and seven obese control subjects (fasting plasma glucose levels, 7.5 +/- 0.5, 4.8 +/- 0.1, and 5.2 +/- 0.1 mmol/l, respectively). Glucose production, utilization, and cycling (flux between glucose and glucose-6-phosphate [G-6-P]) were measured with [6-(3)H]glucose and [2-(3)H]glucose using the constant specific-activity method. Insulin levels decreased normally during exercise in diabetic subjects. Plasma glucose levels decreased in diabetic subjects, but remained constant in control subjects. Basal glucose production was not different among groups and increased similarly during exercise. The decrease in plasma glucose in diabetic subjects was due to greater glucose utilization (867 +/- 83 vs. 726 +/- 143 micromol x m(-2) x min(-1); P < 0.05). This was a consequence of the mass effect of hyperglycemia, since glucose metabolic clearance increased similarly in all groups. Glucose cycling, expressed as a percentage of total glucose output (i.e., flux through G-6-P) was elevated at rest (P < 0.01), but decreased during exercise (P < 0.01). The catecholamine response to exercise was blunted in diabetic subjects, presumably indicating autonomic dysfunction. In conclusion, during moderate-intensity exercise in obese diabetic subjects with mild hyperglycemia, 1) insulin secretory responses were normally regulated; 2) glucose homeostasis was different from that in nondiabetic subjects because glucose levels decreased during exercise; 3) the decrease in plasma glucose was due to greater-than-normal rates of glucose utilization, which were sustained by hyperglycemia; and 4) elevated basal rates of glucose cycling decreased during exercise, presumably because exercise simultaneously lowered plasma glucose, was associated with a blunted catecholamine response, and accentuated an underlying defect in hepatic glucokinase activity in type 2 diabetes.

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