We investigated the effect of a 48 h triglyceride infusion on the subsequent insulin secretion in response to glucose in healthy men. We measured the variations in plasma concentration and urinary excretion of catecholamines as an indirect estimation of sympathetic tone. For 48 h, 20 volunteers received a triglyceride/heparin or a saline solution, separated by a 1-month interval. At time 48 h, insulin secretion in response to glucose was investigated by a single iv glucose injection (0.5 g/kg(-1)) followed by an hyperglycemic clamp (10 mg.kg(-1).min(-1), during 50 min). The triglyceride infusion resulted in a 3-fold elevation in plasma free fatty acids and an increase in insulin and C-peptide plasma concentrations (1.5- and 2.5-fold, respectively, P < 0.05), compared with saline. At time 48 h of lipid infusion, plasma norepinephrine (NE) concentration and urinary excretion levels were lowered compared with saline (plasma NE: 0.65 +/- 0.08 vs. 0.42 +/- 0.06 ng/ml, P < 0.05; urinary excretion: 800 +/- 70 vs. 620 +/- 25 nmol/24 h, P < 0.05). In response to glucose loading, insulin and C-peptide plasma concentrations were higher in lipid compared with saline infusion (plasma insulin: 600 +/- 98 vs. 310 +/- 45 pM, P < 0.05; plasma C-peptide 3.5 +/- 0.2 vs. 1.7 +/- 0.2 nM, P < 0.05). In conclusion, in healthy subjects, a 48-h lipid infusion induces basal hyperinsulinemia and exaggerated insulin secretion in response to glucose which may be partly related to a decrease in sympathetic tone.