Nuclear magnetic resonance studies of hepatic glucose metabolism in humans

Recent Prog Horm Res. 2001;56:219-37. doi: 10.1210/rp.56.1.219.


Nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy has made noninvasive and repetitive measurements of human hepatic glycogen concentrations possible. Monitoring of liver glycogen in real-time mode has demonstrated that glycogen concentrations decrease linearly and that net hepatic glycogenolysis contributes only about 50 percent to glucose production during the early period of a fast. Following a mixed meal, hepatic glycogen represents approximately 20 percent of the ingested carbohydrates, while only about 10 percent of an intravenous glucose load is retained by the liver as glycogen. During mixed-meal ingestion, poorly controlled type 1 diabetic patients synthesize only about 30 percent of the glycogen stored in livers of nondiabetic humans studied under similar conditions. Reduced net glycogen synthesis can be improved but not normalized by short-term, intensified insulin treatment. A decreased increment in liver glycogen content following meals was also found in patients with maturity-onset diabetes of the young due to glucokinase mutations (MODY-2). In patients with poorly controlled type 2 diabetes, fasting hyperglycemia can be attributed mainly to increased rates of endogenous glucose production, which was found by 13C NMR to be due to increased rates of gluconeogenesis. Metformin treatment improved fasting hyperglycemia in these patients through a reduction in hepatic glucose production, which could be attributed to a decrease in gluconeogenesis. In conclusion, NMR spectroscopy has provided new insights into the pathogenesis of hyperglycemia in type 1, type 2, and MODY diabetes and offers the potential of providing new insights into the mechanism of action of novel antidabetic therapies.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 1 / drug therapy
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 1 / metabolism
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 1 / physiopathology
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / drug therapy
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / metabolism
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / physiopathology
  • Fasting
  • Glucose / metabolism*
  • Glycogen / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Hyperglycemia / drug therapy
  • Liver / metabolism
  • Liver Glycogen / metabolism
  • Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy*
  • Metformin / pharmacology
  • Time Factors


  • Liver Glycogen
  • Glycogen
  • Metformin
  • Glucose