Raised plasma triglycerides (TGs) and nonesterified fatty acid (NEFA) concentrations are thought to play a role in the pathogenesis of insulin-resistant diabetes. We report on two sisters with extreme hypertriglyceridemia and overt diabetes, in whom surgical normalization of TGs cured the diabetes. In all of the family members (parents, two affected sisters, ages 18 and 15 years, and an 11-year-old unaffected sister), we measured oral glucose tolerance, insulin sensitivity (by the euglycemic-hyperinsulinemic clamp technique), substrate oxidation (indirect calorimetry), endogenous glucose production (by the [6,6-2H2]glucose technique), and postheparin plasma lipoprotein lipase (LPL) activity. In addition, GC-clamped polymerase chain reaction-amplified DNA from the promoter region and the 10 coding LPL gene exons were screened for nucleotide substitution. Two silent mutations were found in the father's exon 4 (Glu118 Glu) and in the mother's exon 8 (Thr361 Thr), while a nonsense mutation (Ser447 Ter) was detected in the mother's exon 9. Mutations in exons 4 and 8 were inherited by the two affected girls. At 1-2 years after the appearance of hyperchylomicronemia, both sisters developed hyperglycemia with severe insulin resistance. Because medical therapy (including high-dose insulin) failed to reduce plasma TGs or control glycemia, lipid malabsorption was surgically induced by a modified biliopancreatic diversion. Within 3 weeks of surgery, plasma TGs and NEFA and cholesterol levels were drastically lowered. Concurrently, fasting plasma glucose levels fell from 17 to 5 mmol/l (with no therapy), while insulin-stimulated glucose uptake, oxidation, and storage were all markedly improved. Throughout the observation period, plasma TG levels were closely correlated with both plasma glucose and insulin concentrations, as measured during the oral glucose tolerance test. These cases provide evidence that insulin-resistant diabetes can be caused by extremely high levels of TGs.