Metabolic effects of beta 2-agonists

J Clin Pharm Ther. 1992 Jun;17(3):155-64. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2710.1992.tb01285.x.


Catecholamines produce a number of biochemical changes most of which result from stimulation of beta 2-receptors. Interest in these metabolic effects has increased recently as a consequence of the concern over the relatively high mortality from acute asthma attacks. In this review the data on the impact of beta 2-agonists on glucose production, insulin release and lipolysis are presented. Thereafter the subject of hypokalaemia, the mechanism for its production by beta 2-agonists and its relevance to cardiac arrhythmias are considered in detail. Finally the fall in plasma magnesium and the possible role of beta 2-agonists in the production of lactic acidosis are discussed.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Acidosis, Lactic / chemically induced
  • Acute Disease
  • Adrenergic beta-Agonists / pharmacology*
  • Adrenergic beta-Agonists / therapeutic use
  • Albuterol / pharmacology
  • Asthma / drug therapy
  • Female
  • Glucose / biosynthesis*
  • Humans
  • Hypokalemia / chemically induced
  • Insulin / metabolism*
  • Insulin Secretion
  • Lipolysis / drug effects*
  • Magnesium / blood
  • Receptors, Adrenergic, beta / drug effects


  • Adrenergic beta-Agonists
  • Insulin
  • Receptors, Adrenergic, beta
  • Magnesium
  • Glucose
  • Albuterol