Purpose: Endothelial dysfunction is associated with atheromatosis and is a common finding with diabetes. We have studied the effects of acute hyperglycemia on the endothelium-dependent vasodilatation of both the microcirculation and the macrocirculation of healthy subjects. Because of the presence of endothelial dysfunction with diabetes, we hypothesize that acute hyperglycemia causes impaired endothelial-dependent responses.
Methods: Twenty healthy subjects (15 men, 5 women) with a mean age of 32.3 years (range, 23 to 49 years) were examined during fasting conditions and at 1 hour after the ingestion of 75 g of glucose. The endothelium-dependent vasodilatation of the brachial artery, a conduit vessel, was evaluated with high-resolution ultrasound scan to measure the changes in the vessel diameter induced with reactive hyperemia. In the microcirculation, the endothelial function was assessed by measuring the changes in the erythrocyte flux after the acetylcholine iontophoresis.
Results: The brachial artery endothelium-dependent dilatation was greater during fasting as compared with the response after the glucose load was administered (11.7% [8.3 to 14.3] vs 4.2% [1.5 to 9.6]; P < .001; median, first, and third quartile). Both peak and average blood flow velocities during the hyperemic response were higher after the administration of the glucose load as compared with the fasting period (P < .05), but no changes were found in the blood flow volume. During fasting, microcirculatory endothelial-dependent vasodilatation was also significantly greater than the response after the administration of the glucose load (1293% [591 to 1856] vs 863% [385 to 1180]; P < .01).
Conclusions: In healthy subjects, the ingestion of a glucose load impairs the endothelial-dependent vasodilation in both the microcirculation and the macrocirculation. Because impairment of endothelial responses is associated with the early changes of atherosclerosis, it is possible that prolonged hyperglycemia and endothelial dysfunction may lead to the early and accelerated atherosclerosis of diabetes. Further studies are necessary to examine the long-term effects of hyperglycemia.