Glucose tolerance and B cell function were assessed in 30 consecutive chronic alcoholic patients without overt diabetes mellitus. Plasma glucose, insulin, and C peptide concentrations were measured during an oral glucose tolerance test. All patients underwent a liver biopsy and an exocrine pancreatic function test (Lundh test). Compared with the controls, the three groups of alcoholic patients (those with histologically normal livers, n = 12; those with steatosis, n = 10; and those with cirrhosis, n = 8) all had a two-fold increase in plasma concentrations of insulin as well as C peptide in the fasting state, despite normal fasting levels of glucose. After oral glucose all groups of patients had elevated plasma levels of glucose, insulin, and C peptide compared with the controls. The C peptide/insulin ratio was similar to that in the controls in all groups of alcoholics. Patients with decreased exocrine pancreatic function (n = 7) had a significantly lower insulin and C peptide response to glucose than the patients with normal exocrine pancreatic function. It is concluded that (1) chronic alcoholics even with histologically normal livers have endogenous insulin resistance, and (2) associated damage to the exocrine pancreas is more common than previously recognized and decompensation of B cell function could be demonstrated in patients with decreased exocrine pancreatic secretion.