This study was designed to investigate the effect of both hypertension and ageing on the efficiency of glucose metabolism. A 12-sample, 120 min intravenous glucose tolerance test (IVGTT) was applied to 36 rats: two groups of nine young (12 weeks) spontaneously hypertensive and Wistar Kyoto rats (Y-SHR and Y-WKY group, respectively) and two groups of nine old (40 weeks) SHR and WKY rats (O-SHR and O-WKY group, respectively). Insulinaemia and glycaemia data were interpreted in terms of estimates of glucose effectiveness, SG, and insulin sensitivity, SI, provided by the minimal model of glucose kinetics. The possible link between insulin resistance and hypertension was investigated by comparing Y-SHR vs. Y-WKY and O-SHR vs. O-WKY groups. Comparison of O-SHR vs. Y-SHR and O-WKY vs. Y-WKY groups enabled us to investigate the role of age in the development of abnormalities in glucose metabolism. No significant differences (P > 0.05) were observed in the mean SG and SI estimates between SHR and age-matched WKY groups. This finding indicates that exposure of SHR to high blood pressure levels does not necessarily lead to the development of insulin resistance and impaired glucose effectiveness. Similarly, no significant differences (P > 0.05) were observed in SG and SI estimates between old and young SHR and WKY groups. This finding indicates that, in this animal model of hypertension, insulin sensitivity and glucose effectiveness do not even deteriorate with ageing. Experimental Physiology (2003) 88.3, 399-404.