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Diabetes. 2003 Jul;52(7):1761-9.

Effect of antecedent hypoglycemia on counterregulatory responses to subsequent euglycemic exercise in type 1 diabetes.

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Departments of Medicine and Molecular Physiology and Biophysics, Vanderbilt University School of Medicine and Nashville Veteran Affairs Medical Center, Nashville, Tennessee 37232-6303, USA.


Exercise-related hypoglycemia is common in intensively treated patients with type 1 diabetes. The underlying mechanisms are not clearly defined. In nondiabetic subjects, hypoglycemia blunts counterregulatory responses to subsequent exercise. It is unknown whether this also occurs in type 1 diabetes. Therefore, the goal of this study was to test the hypothesis that prior hypoglycemia could result in acute counterregulatory failure during subsequent exercise in type 1 diabetes. A total of 16 type 1 diabetic patients (8 men and 8 women, HbA(1c) 7.8 +/- 0.3%) were investigated during 90 min of euglycemic cycling exercise, following either two 2-h periods of previous-day hypoglycemia (2.9 mmol/l) or previous-day euglycemia. Patients' counterregulatory responses (circulating levels of counterregulatory hormones, intermediary metabolites, substrate flux via indirect calorimetry, tracer-determined glucose kinetics, and cardiovascular measurements) were comprehensively assessed during exercise. Identical euglycemia and basal insulin levels were successfully maintained during all exercise studies, regardless of blood glucose levels during the previous day. After resting euglycemia, patients displayed normal counterregulatory responses to exercise. Conversely, when identical exercise was repeated after hypoglycemia, the glucagon response to exercise was abolished, and the epinephrine, norepinephrine, cortisol, endogenous glucose production, and lipolytic responses were reduced by 40-80%. This resulted in a threefold increase in the amount of exogenous glucose needed to maintain euglycemia during exercise. Our results demonstrate that antecedent hypoglycemia, in type 1 diabetes, can produce acute counterregulatory failure during a subsequent episode of prolonged moderate-intensity exercise. The metabolic consequence of the blunted neuroendocrine and autonomic nervous system counterregulatory responses was an acute failure of endogenous glucose production to match the increased glucose requirements during exercise. These data indicate that counterregulatory failure may be a significant in vivo mechanism responsible for exercise-associated hypoglycemia in type 1 diabetes.

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