1. Urinary albumin excretion and the effect of an acute oral protein load (a meat meal) on glomerular filtration rate ('renal functional reserve') were evaluated in 15 essential hypertensive patients with preserved renal function and compared with 12 normal subjects.

2. Seven patients had microalbuminuria (>30 mg/day) that was not correlated with blood pressure values.

3. After an oral protein load, an average increase of 20% in glomerular filtration rate (from 91 ± 19 to 110 ± 27 ml min−1 1.73 m−2) was found in the hypertensive patients. This change was not statistically different from that observed in normal controls (from 102 ± 7 to 124 ± 9 ml min−1 1.73 m−2). The glomerular response in hypertensive patients was independent of age, duration of hypertension, blood pressure, plasma renin activity, urinary albumin excretion and retinal vascular alterations.

4. All patients were re-evaluated after 6 weeks treatment with a new orally active angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitor, benazepril. Systolic, diastolic and mean blood pressures were lowered in all the patients, but the drug did not affect the glomerular response to acute protein ingestion or the magnitude of urinary albumin excretion.

5. The findings of a normal ‘renal functional reserve’ and a lack of change in both urinary albumin excretion and the glomerular response after angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibition cast doubt on the existence of increased intraglomerular pressure in hypertensive patients.

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