Adherence to a low-calorie diet often results in a decrease in blood glucose concentration in persons with non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus (NIDDM). Whether this is due to the resultant weight loss or to a decrease in caloric intake has been uncertain. We have obtained data previously that indicated a very short-term reduction in caloric intake (5 hours) resulted in a significant decrease in plasma glucose concentration in subjects with NIDDM. The purpose of the present study was to determine if a further decrease in glucose would occur if the fast was extended from 5 to 24 hours. Seven male subjects with untreated NIDDM were studied after an 11-hour overnight fast. For the subsequent 24-hour period, subjects were given only water. Blood was obtained for glucose, insulin, C-peptide, triglycerides, nonesterified fatty acids (NEFA) alpha-amino acid nitrogen, urea nitrogen, and glucagon at hourly intervals for 24 hours beginning at 8 AM. The amount of glycogen degraded was calculated based on the potassium balance. Plasma glucose decreased from 158 mg/dL at 8 AM to a nadir of 104 mg/dL at 7 PM. It then increased by 30 mg/dL. Corresponding changes occurred in insulin and C-peptide. Serum glucagon remained unchanged. Serum alpha-amino acid nitrogen and urea nitrogen decreased. Triglycerides and NEFA increased. The calculated glycogen utilized over this period was approximately 167 g. This would provide approximately 700 kcal energy. The elevated blood glucose concentration in mild to moderately severe untreated NIDDM subjects was normalized following short-term fasting. Plasma insulin concentrations also decreased to within normal limits. These decreases were highly significant. Glycogenolysis is an important source of fuel during this period.