We have assessed the effect of fasting for 10 days on plasma concentrations of immunoreactive somatomedin C and urinary urea excretion in seven obese male volunteers. From a mean prefast value of 0.83 U/ml, plasma somatomedin C fell to 0.21 U/ml after 10 days of fasting. A prompt increase was observed with refeeding. The change in somatomedin C during fasting showed a highly significant correlation with the change in urinary urea nitrogen excretion (r = 0.74; P less than 0.001). It also was shown that inhibitors which interfere with quantitation in somatomedin bioassays are not observed in the RIA for somatomedin C. The results of this study suggest that measurement of plasma somatomedin C provides a sensitive indicator of nitrogen loss and may be useful in monitoring the changes in protein metabolism that occur during alterations in nutritional status.