Effects of cholinergic stimulation and antagonism on plasma insulin concentration in lean and obese human subjects

Horm Metab Res. 1986 Dec;18(12):821-6. doi: 10.1055/s-2007-1012448.


The effect of cholinomimetic stimulation by infusion of edrophonium chloride or muscarinic blockade by infusion of atropine sulfate on insulin and GIP secretion was studied in normal lean subjects during eu- and hyperglycemia. Cholinomimetic stimulation led to a slight non-significant increase and muscarinic blockade to a slight, non-significant suppression of both GIP and insulin. No modification of the insulin secretion pattern was observed under either condition during hyperglycemia. The effect of atropine infusion on fasting plasma insulin and GIP was subsequently studied in 11 obese patients and 10 lean subjects. Muscarinic antagonism by atropine led to a transient non-significant suppression of GIP and insulin in lean subjects, but to a significant, sustained suppression of these hormones in obese patients. Insulin and GIP levels were however, not suppressed to control values after atropine administration in obese patients. A positive correlation was found between fasting plasma insulin and maximal suppression of insulin attained during the 30 min following administration of atropine. It is concluded that part of the hyperinsulinemia observed in human obesity is under the control of the parasympathetic nervous system. An abnormal balance between sympathetic inhibitory and parasympathetic stimulatory tones on insulin secretion, as observed in the VMH lesioned rat, might be present in human obesity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Atropine / pharmacology*
  • Blood Glucose / metabolism
  • Edrophonium / pharmacology*
  • Female
  • Gastric Inhibitory Polypeptide / blood
  • Humans
  • Insulin / blood*
  • Male
  • Obesity / blood*


  • Blood Glucose
  • Insulin
  • Gastric Inhibitory Polypeptide
  • Edrophonium
  • Atropine