Diabetes mellitus is associated with several abnormalities of platelet function. Recent studies have shown that the blood level of platelet activating factor (PAF), a potent inducer of platelet aggregation, is elevated in insulin dependent diabetes mellitus (IDDM) and remains unchanged in non-insulin dependent diabetes mellitus (NIDDM) patients. However, the mechanism of this increase in PAF levels has not been determined. In this study we have measured the activity of plasma PAF acetylhydrolase (an enzyme that regulates PAF levels) and lipoprotein levels in control subjects and diabetic patients. The data presented show that plasma PAF acetylhydrolase activity is significantly decreased in IDDM and is not altered in NIDDM patients. The lipoprotein levels were similar in control and diabetic subjects and there was no correlation between lipoprotein levels and PAF acetylhydrolase activity. These results suggest that the elevated levels of PAF in IDDM patients could be due to a decrease in plasma PAF acetylhydrolase activity.