To define whether rapid rate of fall in blood glucose stimulates counterregulatory hormonal responses in diabetic man, blood glucose in eight hyperglycemic diabetic subjects was rapidly lowered by intravenous insulin administration. Despite precipitous declines in blood glucose, plasma epinephrine and growth hormone remained virtually unchanged. In contrast, norepinephrine and cortisol increased significantly (P < 0.025) in the face of hyperglycemia or euglycemia, while glucagon was suppressed (P < 0.025). A transient modest fall in mean arterial pressure and a rise in pulse rate were noted. No correlation was observed between glucose disappearance rate or decrement in glucose concentration and the hormonal responses. After sham insulin administration, no change was observed in plasma epinephrine, norepinephrine, and cortisol levels.
These findings suggest that rate of fall in blood glucose per se is not a primary signal for counterregulatory hormonal response. Cortisol but not growth hormone release during falling blood glucose in diabetic subjects can occur despite elevated blood glucose levels. The etiology of norepinephrine and cortisol change is unclear.