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J Clin Invest. 1988 Feb; 81(2): 435–441.
PMCID: PMC329588

Quantitative study of insulin secretion and clearance in normal and obese subjects.


The secretion and hepatic extraction of insulin were compared in 14 normal volunteers and 15 obese subjects using a previously validated mathematical model of insulin secretion and rate constants for C-peptide derived from analysis of individual decay curves after intravenous bolus injections of biosynthetic human C-peptide. Insulin secretion rates were substantially higher than normal in the obese subjects after an overnight fast (86.7 +/- 7.1 vs. 50.9 +/- 4.8 pmol/m2 per min, P less than 0.001, mean +/- SEM), over a 24-h period on a mixed diet (279.6 +/- 24.2 vs. 145.8 +/- 8.8 nmol/m2 per 24 h, P less than 0.001), and during a hyperglycemic intravenous glucose infusion (102.2 +/- 10.8 vs. 57.2 +/- 2.8 nmol/m2 per 180 min, P less than 0.001). Linear regression analysis revealed a highly significant relationship between insulin secretion and body mass index. Basal hepatic insulin extraction was not significantly different in the normal and obese subjects (53.1 +/- 3.8 vs. 51.6 +/- 4.0%). In the normal subjects, fasting insulin did not correlate with basal hepatic insulin extraction, but a significant negative correlation between fasting insulin and hepatic insulin extraction was seen in obesity (r = -0.63, P less than 0.02). This finding reflected a higher extraction in the six obese subjects with fasting insulin levels within the range of the normal subjects than in the nine subjects with elevated fasting insulin concentrations (61 +/- 3 vs. 45 +/- 6%, P less than 0.05). During the hyperglycemic clamp, the insulin secretion rate increased to an average maximum of 6.2-fold over baseline in the normal subjects and 5.8-fold in the obese subjects. Over the same time, the peripheral insulin concentration increased 14.1-fold over baseline in the normals and 16.6-fold over baseline in the obese, indicating a reduction in the clearance of endogenously secreted insulin. Although the fall in insulin clearance tended to be greater in the obese subjects, the differences between the two groups were not statistically significant. Thus, under basal, fasting conditions and during ingestion of a mixed diet, the hyperinsulinemia of obesity results predominantly from increased insulin secretion. In patients with more marked basal hyperinsulinemia and during intense stimulation of insulin secretion, a reduction in insulin clearance may contribute to the greater increase in peripheral insulin concentrations that are characteristic of the obese state.+

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