Diurnal variation in insulin sensitivity in patients with NIDDM has long been suspected but has been difficult to document mainly because of the interdependence of changes in glucose and insulin. Stable serum insulin levels during hyperglycemic clamping in patients with NIDDM in the present study provided the opportunity to examine changes in insulin sensitivity unaffected by changes in blood glucose and insulin concentrations. Six patients with NIDDM (four men and two women, BMI 33.9 ± 2.5) underwent hyperglycemic (11.1 mmol/l, ∼200 mg/dl) clamping for 72 h. Measured were serum insulin, free fatty acid (FFA), cortisol, and growth hormone concentrations and rates of insulin secretion, insulin clearance, and glucose infusion rate (GIR) needed to maintain hyperglycemia. In addition, five patients (three men and two women, BMI 32.6 ± 0.6) underwent hyperglycemic clamping for 24 h with hourly determinations of hepatic glucose production (HGP) and glucose disappearance rates (GRd). GIR, reflecting insulin sensitivity, changed rhythmically with a cycle duration of 22.9 ± 1.4 h and an amplitude of 47.8 ± 11.2%. GIR was lowest at 8:31 a.m. (±52 min) and highest at 7:04 p.m. (±58 min). Circadian changes in GIR were completely accounted for by changes in HGP, while GRd remained unchanged. Plasma levels of FFAs and cortisol also exhibited circadian fluctuations, and their blood levels correlated negatively with GIR (r = −0.72 and −0.64, respectively). We concluded that insulin sensitivity in patients with NIDDM changed with circadian (∼24 h) rhythmicity (decreasing during the night and increasing during the day). These changes were unrelated to blood levels of glucose and insulin, insulin clearance, exercise, food intake, and sleep. They were caused by circadian changes in HGP, which in turn were closely correlated with circadian changes in blood FFA and cortisol levels. We believe that recognition of these circadian changes has implications for the diagnosis and the treatment of patients with NIDDM.

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