1. The effect of an exogenous supply of glucose, provided by the digestion of maize starch in the small intestine, on endogenous glucose metabolism and insulin action was studied in sheep using the euglycaemic insulin clamp procedure.
2. Insulin was infused intravenously at rates of 0.2, 0.5, 1.0 and 6.0 mU/min per kg live weight for four consecutive periods in each of four sheep fed on dried-grass and maize-based diets. Glucose was also infused intravenously at a variable rate, sufficient to maintain the plasma glucose concentration at basal levels. Whole-body rates of glucose metabolism were determined using a continuous infusion of [6-3H]glucose.
3. From the resultinginsulin dose-response curves, it was observed that, when the sheep were fed on the dried-grass diet, the responsiveness of glucose metabolism to insulin was less than that reported for non-ruminants.
4. When fed the maize-based diet, the glucose metabolic clearance rates (MCR) observed during insulin infusions were significantly greater (P < 0.05) than those observed for the dried-grass diet. However, after correcting for the non-insulin-mediated glucose disposal, differences between diets were not significant.
5. The sensitivity of glucose utilization to insulin was not affected by diet. The plasma insulin concentrations causing half-maximal insulin-mediated glucose MCR were 103 (SE 21) and 85 (SE 11) mU/l for the dried-grass and maize-based diets respectively.
6. The sensitivity of endogenous glucose production to insulin was also unaffected by diet. The plasma insulin concentrations resulting in the suppression of endogenous glucose production to half the basal level were 80 (SE 26) and 89 (SE 29) mU/l for the dried-grass and maize-based diets respectively.
7. It is concluded that the observed increase in glucose utilization on the maize-based diet was due partly to a slight change in responsiveness to insulin and also partly to a change in the rate of non-insulin-mediated glucose disposal.