We put 12 obese subjects on a very-low-calorie diet (VLCD) and observed how their weight loss affected their glucose tolerance. Seven had non-insulin-dependent diabetes and five did not. They consumed 1000 kcal/day for at least 1 week, then 420 kcal/day for 4 weeks, and 1000 kcal/day thereafter. VLCD improved glucose tolerance and insulin response to a glucose load in the diabetics and did not affect these parameters in the non-diabetics. It did not change insulin responsiveness to intravenous glucagon in either group. Both groups showed improved insulin resistance, as measured by an insulin suppression test. Regression analysis showed that insulin resistance correlates well with obesity and glycemic control. Weight reduction did not change hepatic insulin extraction. Thus, the improvement in glucose tolerance by some of the diabetics seems to have arisen from improvements in their insulin resistance and insulin response to a glucose load. Insulin resistance improved because of weight reduction and subsequent improvements in glycemic control.