We evaluated the effect of physiologic hyperinsulinemia (plasma insulin 329 +/- 62 vs 687 +/- 62 pmol/L) on counterregulatory hormone responses in 8 IDDM subjects studied during a 2-hour hypoglycemic clamp study with an equivalent degree of hypoglycemia (plasma glucose 3.1 +/- 0.1 and 3.0 +/- 0.1 mmol/L, respectively). Plasma epinephrine levels were increased by 71% during the last 60 minutes of hypoglycemia in the high insulin study (840 +/- 180 vs 1440 +/- 310 pmol/L, respectively p = 0.006). In addition, plasma cortisol and norepinephrine were also increased in the high insulin study (by 19% and 24% respectively, p < 0.01, for both). Plasma growth hormone and glucagon concentrations were not altered by high dose insulin infusion. In spite of increased epinephrine secretion, the glucose infusion rate required to maintain glucose was 2-fold greater in the high insulin study, and there was greater suppression of lipolysis in that group. We conclude that hyperinsulinemia may enhance counterregulatory hormone secretion in IDDM.