The aim of the present study was to examine the effects of a large dose of slow-release carbohydrates (CHOs) at bedtime on the nocturnal glucose, insulin and free fatty acid (FFA) levels, and to assess the putative effects on morning fasting and post-prandial glucose levels in patients with moderately controlled non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus (NIDDM). Unheated cornstarch (106 g of CHO) or a mixed equicaloric meal (58 g of CHO) was given at 22.00 hours to 10 NIDDM patients. For comparison, the patients were also given a smaller mixed meal at 22.00 hours on a third occasion (17 g of CHO). Compared with the mixed meals, cornstarch led to a slightly elevated early-morning plasma insulin level and a suppression of the nocturnal FFA level (P < 0.05), as well as to a reduced incremental glucose level (IAUC) after breakfast the next morning by approximately 30% (P < 0.05). There was a significant and linear relationship between the nocturnal FFA level and the glucose IAUC after breakfast (r = 0.44, P < 0.02), indicating that the effect may have been mediated by the suppressive effect of cornstarch on nocturnal lipolysis. In summary, bedtime intake of unheated cornstarch in NIDDM subjects is associated with a suppression of the nocturnal FFA levels and a reduced glucose IAUC after breakfast. As the treatment did not improve overall glucose control, studies of the effects of an individually titrated amount of cornstarch are proposed to further explore the putative favourable effects of bedtime cornstarch in the treatment of NIDDM.