In insulin-dependent diabetes, microalbuminuria increases the risk of cardiovascular and renal disease. By means of a euglycaemic hyperinsulinaemic clamp method, we measured total-body glucose utilisation rate and studied the interaction of this measure of insulin sensitivity with known risk factors for cardiovascular disease in 14 diabetic patients with microalbuminuria and 14 with normal albumin excretion (median albumin excretion rate [AER] 56.2 [range 39.2-80.6] vs 8.8 [7.4-10.7] micrograms per min). The two groups were of similar age, duration of diabetes, and body-mass index. Total-body glucose disposal rate was significantly lower in the patients with microalbuminuria than in those without (mean 7.86 [SD 1.40] vs 9.04 [0.90] mg/kg per min; p < 0.05). There were also significant differences between the groups in the daily insulin dose needed for equivalent glucose control (0.76 [0.20] vs 0.65 [0.10] U/kg, p < 0.05), mean systolic blood pressure over 24 h ambulatory monitoring (134  vs 127  mm Hg; p < 0.05), and various plasma lipid concentrations, contributing to a more atherogenic profile in the microalbuminuric group. Total-body glucose disposal rate was inversely correlated with body-mass index and log10 AER. The insulin sensitivity of the microalbuminuric group remained impaired after adjustment for blood pressure and body-mass index. Impaired insulin sensitivity is a feature of insulin-dependent diabetic patients with microalbuminuria, which adds, with other factors, to the increased risks of renal and cardiovascular disease in these patients.