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Novartis Found Symp. 2002;242:222-42; discussion 242-6.

Glucose tolerance, glucose utilization and insulin secretion in ageing.

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  • 1Department of Medicine, Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA 02114, USA.


Ageing is associated with an increased incidence of hypertension, macrovascular disease and type 2 diabetes (non-insulin-dependent diabetes). It has been suggested that a common mechanism may be responsible for all of these pathological states since all of these conditions often cluster in the same individual. Epidemiological and clinical data have consistently demonstrated an association between insulin resistance and/or hyperinsulinaemia and glucose intolerance, dyslipidaemia and elevated systolic blood pressures. Therefore, insulin resistance and hyperinsulinaemia have been proposed as the causal link among the elements of the clusters. The elderly are more glucose intolerant and insulin resistant, but it remains controversial whether this decrease in function is due to an inevitable consequence of 'biological ageing' or due to environmental or lifestyle variables, noticeably increased adiposity/altered fat distribution and physical inactivity. An increase of these modifiable factors has been shown to result in increases in insulin resistance and hyperinsulinaemia and vice versa. However, insulin secretion appears to decrease with age even after adjustments for differences in adiposity, fat distribution and physical activity. The glucose intolerance of ageing may be due, in part, to decreased insulin sensitivity of pancreatic / cells to insulinotropic gut hormones (GLP1/GIP) and in part to alterations of hepatic glucose production.

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