This study investigated early alterations of glucose metabolism in idiopathic haemochromatosis. Circulating concentrations of glucose, insulin, C-peptide, glucagon, and gastric inhibitory polypeptide (GIP) were measured after a 100-g oral glucose load in 10 men with idiopathic haemochromatosis in the non-cirrhotic stage of the disease. All had normal glucose tolerance and normal body weight. Ten matched healthy subjects were studied as controls. Insulin concentrations increased to significantly higher levels in patients with idiopathic haemochromatosis than in the control subjects from 30 to 180 min after the glucose load (p less than or equal to 0.01), while fasting insulin concentrations were not significantly different (p greater than 0.05). Concentrations of glucose, glucagon, C-peptide, and GIP were not significantly different at any time (p greater than 0.05). Thus, patients with idiopathic haemochromatosis show hyperinsulinaemia and hence insulin resistance without impaired glucose tolerance in the non-cirrhotic stage. Since pancreatic insulin secretion (C-peptide), glucagon secretion, and the entero-insulinar axis (GIP) are not impaired in these non-cirrhotic patients with idiopathic haemochromatosis, iron accumulation in the hepatocytes may be responsible for the impaired insulin effect and may cause impaired hepatic insulin extraction.