Effect of lactate administration on brain lactate levels during hypoglycemia in patients with type 1 diabetes

J Cereb Blood Flow Metab. 2019 Oct;39(10):1974-1982. doi: 10.1177/0271678X18775884. Epub 2018 May 11.


Administration of lactate during hypoglycemia suppresses symptoms and counterregulatory responses, as seen in patients with type 1 diabetes and impaired awareness of hypoglycemia (IAH), presumably because lactate can substitute for glucose as a brain fuel. Here, we examined whether lactate administration, in a dose sufficient to impair awareness of hypoglycemia, affects brain lactate levels in patients with normal awareness of hypoglycemia (NAH). Patients with NAH (n = 6) underwent two euglycemic-hypoglycemic clamps (2.8 mmol/L), once with sodium lactate infusion (NAH w|lac) and once with saline infusion (NAH w|placebo). Results were compared to those obtained during lactate administration in patients with IAH (n = 7) (IAH w|lac). Brain lactate levels were determined continuously with J-difference editing 1H-MRS. During lactate infusion, symptom and adrenaline responses to hypoglycemia were considerably suppressed in NAH. Infusion of lactate increased brain lactate levels modestly, but comparably, in both groups (mean increase in NAH w|lac: 0.12 ± 0.05 µmol/g and in IAH w|lac: 0.06 ± 0.04 µmol/g). The modest increase in brain lactate may suggest that the excess of lactate is immediately metabolized by the brain, which in turn may explain the suppressive effects of lactate on awareness of hypoglycemia observed in patients with NAH.

Keywords: Hypoglycemia; MR spectroscopy; diabetes; lactate; unawareness.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Brain / drug effects
  • Brain / metabolism
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 1 / blood
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 1 / drug therapy*
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 1 / metabolism
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hypoglycemia / blood
  • Hypoglycemia / drug therapy*
  • Hypoglycemia / metabolism
  • Lactic Acid / administration & dosage
  • Lactic Acid / blood*
  • Lactic Acid / metabolism
  • Lactic Acid / therapeutic use*
  • Male
  • Young Adult


  • Lactic Acid