Brachial artery FMD (flow-mediated dilatation) is widely used as a marker of systemic arterial endothelial function. FMD, however, shows considerable 25% day-to-day variation that hinders its clinical use. The reasons for this variability are poorly characterized. Therefore the present study was designed to clarify factors responsible for the hourly variation in endothelial function, including consuming a low-fat meal and circadian rhythms in endogenous hormonal levels. Brachial artery FMD, along with serum glucose, triacylglycerols (triglycerides) and levels of several hormones were measured six times per day on two separate days 1 week apart. On one day, the subjects (healthy males: n=12, mean age, 24 years) ate a light breakfast and a standardized lunch (23.5% fat, 48.7% carbohydrate and 27.8% protein). On the other day, they had a similar breakfast after which they fasted. Postprandial FMD values (both after breakfast and after lunch) were similar to baseline FMD. FMD showed a 28% hourly variation and 27% weekly variation. Variation in plasma levels of insulin (P=0.02) associated negatively and DHPG (3,4-dihydroxyphenylglycol) (P=0.001), a marker of sympathetic nervous activation, associated positively with variation in FMD. The effects of DHPG and insulin on FMD were independent of changes in baseline brachial artery diameter, although DHPG was also inversely associated with baseline diameter. Eating a regular low-fat meal does not have any measurable effects on brachial artery endothelial function. These data suggest that strict requirements for fasting conditions may be unnecessary when measuring peripheral endothelial function using the ultrasound technique. Circadian variation in serum insulin and sympathetic tone are physiological determinants of endothelial function.

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