Cephalic-phase insulin release (CPIR) and the changes in glucose turnover induced by saccharin ingestion were studied in freely moving lean and genetically obese fa/fa rats equipped with chronic catheters for blood sampling. Six-hour-fasted lean and obese rats were trained to drink 1 ml sodium saccharin (0.15%) or 1 ml glucose (70%), and blood samples were taken before and after the stimuli. As early as 1-1.5 min poststimulus, there was a significant increase in CPIR in lean and obese rats. The amplitude of the CPIR induced either by saccharin or by glucose in the obese rats was significantly higher than it was in the lean rats. The effect of saccharin ingestion on the hepatic glucose production (HGP) and the rate of glucose disappearance (Rd) was studied in 6-h-fasted lean and obese rats, under non-steady-state conditions, according to a method previously validated. Saccharin ingestion produced a significant increase in HGP and Rd in lean and obese rats compared with basal values. The saccharin-induced increments in HGP and Rd were higher in the obese than in the lean animals. We conclude that saccharin (through taste) appears to elicit parasympathetic (insulin release) and sympathetic (HGP increase) reflexes in lean and obese rats. These taste-induced changes in plasma insulin and glucose turnover are exaggerated in the obese rats and may participate in obesity and in insulin resistance of the overall syndrome.