To delineate the potential role of disordered glucose and glucose-precursor kinetics in the abnormal carbohydrate metabolism of chronic renal failure, alanine and glucose production and utilization and gluconeogenesis from alanine were studied in patients with chronic compensated renal insufficiency and in normal volunteers. With simultaneous primed injection-continuous infusions of radiolabeled alanine and glucose, rates of metabolite turnover and precursor-product interrelationships were calculated from the plateau portion of the appropriate specific activity curves. All subjects were studied in the postabsorption state. In 13 patients with chronic renal failure (creatinine = 10.7 ± 1.2 mg/100 ml; mean ± SEM), glucose turnover was found to be 1,035 ± 99.3 μmol/min. This rate was increased 56% (P = 0.003) over that observed in control subjects (664 ± 33.5 μmol/min). Alanine turnover was 474 ± 96.0 μmol/min in azotemic patients. This rate was 191% greater (P = 0.007) than the rate determined in control subjects (163 ± 19.4 μmol/min). Gluconeogenesis from alanine and the percent of glucose production contributed by gluconeogenesis from alanine were increased in patients with chronic renal failure (192% and 169%, respectively) as compared to controls (P < 0.05 for each). Alanine utilization for gluconeogenesis was increased from 40.2 ± 3.86 μmol/min in control subjects to 143 ± 39.0 μmol/min in azotemic patients (P< 0.05). The percent of alanine utilization accounted for by gluconeogenesis was not altered in chronic renal insufficiency. In nondiabetic azotemic subjects, mean fasting glucose and immunoreactive insulin levels were increased 24.3% (P = 0.005) and 130% (P = 0.046), respectively. These results in patients with chronic renal failure demonstrate (a) increased glucose production and utilization, (b) increased gluconeogenesis from alanine, (c) increased alanine production and utilization, and (d) a relative impairment to glucose disposal. We conclude that chronic azotemia is characterized by increased rates of glucose and glucose precursor flux and by a relative impairment to glucose disposal. These findings may suggest an underlying hepatic and peripheral insensitivity to the metabolic action of insulin in patients with chronic renal insufficiency.
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