To elucidate the causes of the diminished incretin effect in type 2 diabetes mellitus we investigated the secretion of the incretin hormones, glucagon-like peptide-1 and glucose- dependent insulinotropic polypeptide and measured nonesterified fatty acids, and plasma concentrations of insulin, C peptide, pancreatic polypeptide, and glucose during a 4-h mixed meal test in 54 heterogeneous type 2 diabetic patients, 33 matched control subjects with normal glucose tolerance, and 15 unmatched subjects with impaired glucose tolerance. The glucagon-like peptide-1 response in terms of area under the curve from 0-240 min after the start of the meal was significantly decreased in the patients (2482 +/- 145 compared with 3101 +/- 198 pmol/liter.240 min; P = 0.024). In addition, the area under the curve for glucose-dependent insulinotropic polypeptide was slightly decreased. In a multiple regression analysis, a model with diabetes, body mass index, male sex, insulin area under the curve (negative influence), glucose-dependent insulinotropic polypeptide area under the curve (negative influence), and glucagon area under the curve (positive influence) explained 42% of the variability of the glucagon-like peptide-1 response. The impaired glucose tolerance subjects were hyperinsulinemic and generally showed the same abnormalities as the diabetic patients, but to a lesser degree. We conclude that the meal-related glucagon-like peptide-1 response in type 2 diabetes is decreased, which may contribute to the decreased incretin effect in type 2 diabetes.