Theophylline enhances glucose recovery after hypoglycemia in healthy man and in type I diabetic patients

Metabolism. 1994 Jun;43(6):776-81. doi: 10.1016/0026-0495(94)90130-9.


The principal mediators of glucose counterregulation (glucagon and epinephrine) use intracellular cyclic adenosine monophosphate (cAMP) to mediate glucose release. Since theophylline increases cAMP (by inhibiting its decomposition), we investigated the effect of theophylline on glucose recovery after insulin-induced hypoglycemia. Eleven healthy subjects and nine type I (insulin-dependent) diabetic patients each participated in two experiments in randomized order, receiving on both days an insulin bolus of 0.15 IU/kg soluble insulin. On one day, theophylline (intravenous [IV] bolus of 220 mg followed by IV infusion of 1 mg/kg/h) was administered from 1 hour before induction of hypoglycemia until the end of the study period. On the other day, NaCl was administered. Plasma glucose before induction of hypoglycemia was equal on the 2 study days. The plasma glucose area under the curve (AUC) was larger with theophylline than with NaCl (P = .04 for diabetic patients and P = .003 for healthy subjects). During the most active phase of glucose counterregulation, the rate of increase of plasma glucose was larger with theophylline (P = .003 for diabetic patients and P = .03 for healthy subjects). The incremental AUC for cAMP was larger with theophylline for diabetic patients (P = .01). For healthy subjects, cAMP was greater with theophylline 30 minutes after insulin (P = .03). In conclusion, glucose recovery after hypoglycemia is significantly increased when theophylline is administered in an asthma dosage before hypoglycemia is induced. This may be due to a significant enhancement of the cAMP response.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Blood Glucose / drug effects
  • Blood Glucose / metabolism*
  • Cyclic AMP / analysis
  • Cyclic AMP / blood
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 1 / blood*
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Drug Synergism
  • Glucagon / blood
  • Humans
  • Hydrocortisone / blood
  • Hypoglycemia / chemically induced
  • Insulin / adverse effects
  • Insulin / blood
  • Liver / chemistry
  • Liver / drug effects
  • Male
  • Single-Blind Method
  • Theophylline / pharmacology*
  • Time Factors


  • Blood Glucose
  • Insulin
  • Glucagon
  • Theophylline
  • Cyclic AMP
  • Hydrocortisone