Intended for healthcare professionals

Research Article

Sensitivity to insulin during treatment with atenolol and metoprolol: a randomised, double blind study of effects on carbohydrate and lipoprotein metabolism in hypertensive patients.

British Medical Journal 1989; 298 doi: (Published 29 April 1989) Cite this as: British Medical Journal 1989;298:1152
  1. T. Pollare,
  2. H. Lithell,
  3. I. Selinus,
  4. C. Berne
  1. Department of Geriatrics, Uppsala University, Sweden.


    OBJECTIVE--To compare the effects of metoprolol and atenolol on carbohydrate and lipid metabolism and on insulin response to an intravenous glucose load. DESIGN--Randomised, double blind, double dummy, controlled crossover trial. SETTING--University Hospital, Uppsala, Sweden. PATIENTS--60 Patients with primary hypertension (diastolic blood pressure when resting supine 95-119 mm Hg on at least two occasions during four to six weeks of treatment with placebo) randomised to receive either metoprolol (n = 30) or atenolol (n = 30) during the first treatment period. INTERVENTIONS--Placebo was given for a run in period of four to six weeks. Metoprolol 100 mg twice daily or atenolol 25 mg twice daily was then given for 16 weeks. The two drugs were then exchanged and treatment continued for a further 16 weeks. END POINT--Evaluation of effects of treatment with metoprolol and atenolol on glucose, insulin, and lipid metabolism and glucose disposal mediated by insulin. MEASUREMENTS AND MAIN RESULTS--Reduction of blood pressure was similar and satisfactory during treatment with both drugs. Glucose uptake mediated by insulin was measured during a euglycaemic hyperinsulinaemic clamp to evaluate patients' sensitivity to insulin. Glucose uptake decreased from 5.6 to 4.5 mg/kg/min when patients were taking metoprolol and from 5.6 to 4.9 mg/kg/min when they were taking atenolol. Both drugs caused a small increase in fasting plasma insulin and blood glucose concentrations and glycated haemoglobin concentration. Despite decreased sensitivity to insulin the increase in insulin concentration in response to an intravenous glucose tolerance test was small, suggesting inhibition of release of insulin. Very low density lipoprotein and low density lipoprotein triglyceride concentrations were increased with both drugs and high density lipoprotein cholesterol concentration was decreased. Low density lipoprotein cholesterol concentration was not affected. CONCLUSIONS--Long term use of metoprolol and atenolol causes metabolic abnormalities that may be related to the increased incidence of diabetes in patients with hypertension who are treated pharmacologically. These results may help to explain why the two drugs have failed consistently to reduce the incidence of coronary heart disease in several large scale studies.