Abstract. Hypothyroidism has been alleged to modulate insulin action and influence the secretion of growth hormone and catecholamines. We recently investigated the influence of hypothyroidism on glucose counterregulatory capacity and the hormonal responses to insulin-induced hypoglycaemia in 6 patients with primary hypothyroidism (age 32–52 years, TSH-values 66–200 mU/l). Hypoglycaemia was induced in the hypothyroid state and again when the subjects were euthyroid. After an overnight fast a constant rate infusion of insulin (2.4 U/h) was given for 4 h. Glucose was measured every 15 min and insulin, C-peptide, glucagon, epinephrine, norepinephrine, growth hormone and cortisol every 30 min for 5 h.
During insulin infusion somewhat higher concentrations of the hormone were obtained in the hypothyroid state and simultaneously glucose levels were 0.5 mmol/l lower. As expected, basal norepinephrine levels were higher in hypothyroidism. However, no increase in circulating norepinephrine during hypoglycaemia was registered in the two experiments. The responses of counterregulatory hormones showed an enhanced response of cortisol, similar responses of growth hormone and epinephrine while the glucagon response was paradoxically impaired. Our findings suggest that hypothyroidism alters insulin metabolism, and that the glucagon response to hypoglycaemia is impaired in this condition.