Plasma somatostatin levels were determined during a 24-hour period and after a meal test in 7 and 5 elderly subjects (76-90 years), respectively. The data obtained were compared with those recorded in young adult subjects (22-30 years). Increased basal somatostatin values were found in elderly subjects (20.0 +/- 1.5 pg/ml) when compared to young adults (14.1 +/- 0.6 pg/ml; p less than 0.01). Also, the mean 24-hour somatostatin levels were higher in the elderly (21.3 +/- 0.8 pg/ml) than in young adults (16.7 +/- 0.5 pg/ml; p less than 0.01), and minor diurnal variations were found in the former group. The response to the meal test was less evident in the elderly than in the control group. The data obtained indicate an increased basal somatostatin production associated with a diminished variability throughout the 24-hour period and in relation to meals.