Ultradian oscillations of insulin secretion in humans

Diabetes. 2002 Feb;51 Suppl 1:S258-61. doi: 10.2337/diabetes.51.2007.s258.


Ultradian rhythmicity appears to be characteristic of several endocrine systems. As described for other hormones, insulin release is a multioscillatory process with rapid pulses of about 10 min and slower ultradian oscillations (50--120 min). The mechanisms underlying the ultradian circhoral oscillations of insulin secretion rate (ISR), which arise in part from a rhythmic amplification of the rapid pulses, are not fully understood. In humans, included in the same period range is the alternation of rapid eye movement (REM) and non-REM (NREM) sleep cycles and the associated opposite oscillations in sympathovagal balance. During sleep, the glucose and ISR oscillations were amplified by about 150%, but the REM-NREM sleep cycles did not entrain the glucose and ISR ultradian oscillations. Also, the latter were not related to either the ultradian oscillations in sympathoagal balance, as inferred from spectral analysis of cardiac R-R intervals, or the plasma fluctuations of glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1), an incretin hormone known to potentiate glucose-stimulated insulin. Other rhythmic physiological processes are currently being examined in relation to ultradian insulin release.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Circadian Rhythm / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Insulin / metabolism*
  • Insulin Secretion
  • Sleep Stages / physiology


  • Insulin