Many first-degree relatives of patients with non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus (NIDDM) are characterized by insulin resistance. Because metformin improves peripheral insulin sensitivity, we examined the acute effect of metformin and placebo on glucose and lipid metabolism in nine insulin-resistant first-degree relatives of NIDDM patients with the euglycemic insulin-clamp technique combined with indirect calorimetry and infusion of [3-3H]glucose. Either placebo or 500 mg metformin was taken in random order twice the day before and once 1 h before the clamp. Nine healthy individuals without family history of diabetes served as control subjects. Basal plasma glucose was normal and did not differ between the metformin and the placebo study (4.8 ± 0.2 vs. 5.0 ± 0.2 mM) and neither did basal hepatic glucose production (10.59 ± 0.54 vs. 10.21 ± 0.80 μmol · kg−1 · min−1). Insulin-stimulated glucose disposal was significantly increased by 25% after metformin compared with placebo (26.67 ± 2.87 vs. 21.31 ± 1.73 μmol kg−1 min−1P < 0.05). The enhancement in glucose utilization was primarily due to normalization of nonoxidative glucose disposal (from 8.02 ± 1.35 to 15.07 ± 2.69 μmol kg−1 min−1P < 0.01, vs. 15.65 ± 2.72 μmol kg−1 min−1 in control subjects). In contrast, glucose oxidation during the clamp was slightly lower after metformin compared with both placebo (11.59 ± 0.83 vs. 13.30 ± 1.00 μmol kg−1 min−1P = 0.06) and healthy control subjects (15.68 ± 1.38 μmol kg−1 min−1P < 0.05). We conclude that acutely administered metformin improves peripheral insulin sensitivity in insulin-resistant normoglycemic individuals primarily by stimulating the nonoxidative pathway of glucose metabolism.

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