The serum immunoreactive insulin response to an oral glucose load was estimated in 15 Asian Indian and 29 European non-diabetic subjects, and in 45 Asian Indian and 72 European Type 2 (non-insulin-dependent) diabetic patients. In the non-diabetic group, basal insulin values were higher in the Asian Indians than the Europeans (16.7 +/- 3.0 vs. 6.9 +/- 0.7 mU/l, p less than 0.001), and remained higher throughout the glucose tolerance test. Total insulin response was also higher in the Asian Indians (p less than 0.001), and linear regression analysis revealed basal insulin, body mass index and race to be important predictors of insulin response. Amongst the diabetic patients, basal insulin values were again higher in the Asian Indians compared with the Europeans (18.0 +/- 5.0 vs. 11.5 +/- 0.9 mU/l, p less than 0.05). Total insulin response was also greater (p less than 0.01). Linear regression analysis revealed the basal insulin value to be the only significant predictor of insulin response. The results demonstrate higher insulin levels in Asian Indians than Europeans in both normal subjects and Type 2 diabetic subjects. The insulin response to a glucose load is also greater in the Asian Indians. In the control subjects, ethnic differences contribute to this response, whereas in the diabetic patients this is a function of the elevated basal insulin values of the Asian Indians.