Sodium-retaining effect of insulin in diabetes

Am J Physiol Regul Integr Comp Physiol. 2012 Dec;303(11):R1101-9. doi: 10.1152/ajpregu.00390.2012. Epub 2012 Oct 3.


Insulin has long been hypothesized to cause sodium retention, potentially of enough magnitude to contribute to hypertension in obesity, metabolic syndrome, and Type II diabetes. There is an abundance of supportive evidence from correlational analyses in humans, acute insulin infusion studies in humans and animals, and chronic insulin infusion studies in rats. However, the absence of hypertension in human insulinoma patients, and negative results for sodium-retaining or blood pressure effects of chronic insulin infusion in a whole series of dog studies, strongly refute the insulin hypothesis. We recently questioned whether the euglycemic, hyperinsulinemia model used for most insulin infusion studies, including the previous chronic dog studies, was the most appropriate model to test the renal actions of insulin in obesity, metabolic syndrome, and Type II diabetes. In those circumstances, hyperinsulinemia coexists with hyperglycemia. Therefore, we tested the sodium-retaining effect of insulin in chronically instrumented, alloxan-treated diabetic dogs. We used 24 h/day intravenous insulin infusion to regulate plasma insulin concentration. Induction of diabetes (∼400 mg/dl) caused sustained natriuresis and diuresis. However, if we clamped insulin at baseline, control levels, i.e., prevented it from decreasing, then the sustained natriuresis and diuresis were completely reversed, despite the same level of hyperglycemia. We also found that 24 h/day intrarenal insulin infusion had the same effect in diabetic dogs but had no sodium-retaining action in normal dogs. This new evidence that insulin has a sodium-retaining effect during hyperglycemia may have implications for maintaining sodium balance in uncontrolled Type II diabetes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Blood Glucose / drug effects*
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Experimental / drug therapy
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Experimental / metabolism*
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / drug therapy
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Insulin / metabolism
  • Insulin / pharmacology*
  • Insulin / therapeutic use
  • Sodium / metabolism*


  • Blood Glucose
  • Insulin
  • Sodium