This study was done to explore the role of physiologic elevations of glucagon concentration in plasma ketone body concentration in normal man. During the period of hormone elevation, plasma free fatty acids were pharmacologically elevated to ensure adequate free fatty acid substrate delivery to the liver to support hepatic ketogenesis.
Eighty-minute infusions of glucagon resulted in a plasma hormone concentration of ∼ 300 pg./ml. During the infusion, ketone bodies declined from their basal concentration and remained below basal for the duration of the infusion. An acute heparin-induced pharmacologic elevation of plasma free fatty acid concentration resulted in a transient rise in plasma ketone body concentration, but at no time did it attain the concentration observed during the control saline infusion. Plasma glucose concentration was not altered by glucagon infusion, but plasma insulin concentration rose by ∼ 2.5 μU./ml.
These results suggest that glucagon is not ketogenic in normal man as has been previously reported in insulin-deficient diabetics. The glucagon-induced rise in plasma insulin concentration may participate in the observed reduction in plasma ketone body concentration.