The regulation of hormone-sensitive lipase activity in vivo has not been studied in detail before. We have performed noninvasive in vivo tests to measure hormone-sensitive lipase activity under high plasma levels of endogenous insulin and catecholamines. For this purpose, two mental stress tests were carried out at random in 13 healthy volunteers. The subjects ingested 200 ml of a placebo solution or 20% glucose, followed by 1 h of rest, 20 min of mental stress, and 40 min of rest. Twenty minutes after the ingestion of glucose, insulin levels increased from 6.8 +/- 1.6 to a maximum of 30.5 +/- 4.8 mU/liter (P < 0.01), whereas the increase in insulin was significantly less after placebo (from 5.7 +/- 0.9 to 9.5 +/- 1.5 mU/liter; P < 0.01). The increase in heart rate, as an estimate of the amount of stress, was similar in both tests (12% increase). During stress, plasma norepinephrine and epinephrine concentrations increased by 24% and 44%, respectively, after glucose and by 4% and 21%, respectively, after placebo (n = 6). Fasting plasma FFA were similar in both tests (placebo, 0.35 +/- 0.07 mM; glucose, 0.46 +/- 0.08 mM). Forty minutes after ingestion of placebo, plasma FFA concentrations decreased to 0.27 +/- 0.07 mM, compared with a stronger suppression to 0.11 +/- 0.02 mM after ingestion of glucose (P < 0.01). By 10 min after mental stress, plasma FFA concentrations increased by 53% after placebo (P < 0.01), in contrast to unchanged FFA concentrations after ingestion of glucose. Taken together, these results suggest that the suppression of hormone-sensitive lipase by endogenous insulin in healthy, insulin-sensitive subjects is stronger than the stimulation by endogenous catecholamines.