Stimulation of insulin secretion by infusion of free fatty acids

J Clin Invest. 1969 Oct;48(10):1934-43. doi: 10.1172/JCI106160.


The acute elevation of plasma free fatty acid (FFA) levels by direct infusion of sodium oleate into the plasma of conscious dogs was accompanied by the rapid onset of a 2- to 12-fold increase in plasma immunoreactive insulin, and, subsequently, a marked fall in plasma glucose, even in dogs receiving intravenous glucose throughout the infusion. The magnitude of both the insulin and glucose responses correlated with the mean FFA level during infusion. A large increase in plasma insulin and fall in glucose also occurred when glycerol was infused with oleate in order to simulate endogenous lipolysis more closely. Insulin levels in pancreaticoduodenal vein blood rose markedly during oleate infusion, while plasma ketone levels rose only slightly. In contrast to the effects of oleate infusion, elevation of plasma FFA to correspondingly high levels by triolein ingestion and intravenous heparin produced only small increases in plasma insulin, which did not correlate well with the FFA level reached, and small increases in plasma glucose.The results indicate that under certain conditions elevated FFA levels may be a potent stimulus of insulin secretion. This response is modified under other conditions such as during chylomicron removal under the influence of heparin. This effect may play a role in the regulation of lipolysis and ketone formation, but determination of the exact mechanism of FFA stimulation of the pancreas and its physiological significance will require further investigation.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Blood Glucose / analysis
  • Dietary Fats
  • Dogs
  • Fatty Acids, Nonesterified / administration & dosage*
  • Fatty Acids, Nonesterified / blood
  • Fatty Acids, Nonesterified / physiology*
  • Female
  • Glycerol / administration & dosage
  • Heparin / administration & dosage
  • Injections, Intravenous
  • Insulin / metabolism*
  • Insulin Secretion
  • Ketones / blood
  • Lipid Metabolism
  • Male
  • Oleic Acids / administration & dosage
  • Pancreas / drug effects


  • Blood Glucose
  • Dietary Fats
  • Fatty Acids, Nonesterified
  • Insulin
  • Ketones
  • Oleic Acids
  • Heparin
  • Glycerol