To assess the effect of selective β1-blockade (atenolol and betaxolol) and nonselective β-blockade (propranolol) on glucose turnover in subjects with insulin-dependent (type I) diabetes mellitus during moderate exercise.


Five subjects with type I diabetes were infused with insulin and then exercised for 1 h, after pretreatment with each of the three drugs or saline and, on a separate day, after withdrawal of insulin. Glucose turnover was measured using tritiated glucose.


Plasma glucose, initially 9.2 ± 0.5 mmol/L (mean ± SE) when insulin infused and 14.0 ± 0.8 when insulin was withdrawn, fell on exercise by 3.4 ± 1.1 mmol/L (P < 0.05) saline, 4.0 ± 0.8 mmol/L (P < 0.01) with betaxolol, 3.8 ± 0.7 mmol/L (P < 0.01) with atenolol, 5.0 ± 0.6 mmol/L (P < 0.005) with propranolol, and 1.7 ± 1.0 mmol/L (NS) when insulin was withdrawn. Propranolol, but not the other β-blockers, caused a significantly greater fall in glucose on exercise than during the control study. Glucose appearance rate (Ra) was similar basally and rose to an almost identical level in all five groups during exercise. Glucose disappearance rate (Rd) rose similarly during exercise, except after propranolol when the rise was significantly greater with saline (P < 0.01). Failure of glucose to change significantly during exercise when insulin had been withdrawn was associated with the smallest rise in Rd and the highest nonesterified fatty acid concentrations. Propranolol and betaxolol, but not atenolol, reduced nonesterified fatty acids.


We conclude that the greater fall in glucose on exercise after β-blocking drugs is probably largely a direct effect of β2-blockade on muscle, increasing the exercise-induced rise in Rd glucose. This offers support to the use of β1-specific drugs, where β-blockade is necessary in type I diabetes.

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