High dose insulin does not increase glucose transfer across the blood-brain barrier in humans: a re-evaluation


BACKGROUND: This study re-evaluates previously published data on blood-brain barrier transfer coefficients in humans exposed to high insulin levels.

DESIGN: In this study of seven volunteers, global blood-brain barrier permeability to glucose and phenylalanine was measured by means of the intracarotid double-indicator method before, during, and after an insulin-glucose clamp. Data were reanalyzed by means of a mathematical model that takes capillary heterogeneity and labelled glucose backflux from the brain into account.

RESULTS: The permeability-surface area product (PS) for glucose transport from the blood into the brain, PS1, was 0.145 (0.102-0.211) (median and quartiles), 0.146 (0.113-0.259), and 0.157 (0.133-0.181) ml g-1 min-1 before, during, and after insulin challenge, respectively. In six of the subjects, PS for transport from brain to blood over the brain glucose distribution volume, PS2/Ve decreased under hyperinsulinemia, from a baseline value of 6.56 (3.0-14.9) to 3.86 (1.41-5.32), and restored to a value of 3.8 (2.8-12.1) min-1 after insulin challenge. This decrease in PS2/Ve is probably due to an increase in the brain glucose distribution volume induced by an insulin induced increased intracellular glucose uptake during the experiment. For phenylalanine (n = 5), PS1 was unchanged before, during, and after insulin challenge. In hyperinsulinemia, PS3/Ve for phenylalanine decreased in all subjects.

CONCLUSION: We conclude that acutely elevated high plasma insulin levels in humans does not alter the brain uptake of glucose or phenylalanine from the blood. It seems, however, that high plasma insulin levels induce an increase in the movement of D-glucose and L-phenylalanine from the brain interstitial fluid into the intracellular compartment.

Original languageEnglish
JournalEuropean Journal of Clinical Investigation
Issue number8
Pages (from-to)687-91
Number of pages5
Publication statusPublished - Aug 1999
Externally publishedYes


  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Biological Transport, Active/drug effects
  • Blood Glucose/metabolism
  • Blood-Brain Barrier/drug effects
  • Female
  • Glucose/metabolism
  • Humans
  • Insulin/administration & dosage
  • Kinetics
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Phenylalanine/blood


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