Despite causing sympathetic activation, prolonged hypoglycaemia produces little change in HR (heart rate) in healthy young adults. One explanation could be concurrent parasympathetic activation, resulting in unchanged net effects of autonomic influences. In the present study, hypoglycaemic (2.7 mmol/l) and normoglycaemic (4.7 mmol/l) hyperinsulinaemic clamp studies were performed after normoglycaemic baseline clamp periods with 15 healthy volunteers (seven male; mean age, 27 years) on two occasions in a randomized single-blind cross-over design. Non-invasive indices of cardiac autonomic activity and hormones were measured at baseline and 1 h after the beginning of hypoglycaemia or control normoglycaemia. Plasma insulin levels and mean HR were similar during both conditions. During hypoglycaemia, there was a 485% increase in plasma adrenaline (epinephrine). A shortening of the pre-ejection period by 45% suggested strong sympathetic cardiac activation. High-frequency (0.15–0.45 Hz) HRV (HR variability) increased, indicating a concomitant increase in parasympathetic tone. Thus, during hypoglycaemia-induced sympathetic cardiac activation in healthy adults, parasympathetic mechanisms are involved in stabilizing mean HR.

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