1. The influence of the intake of different nutrients on muscle nerve sympathetic activity was studied by use of microneurography. Muscle nerve sympathetic activity, heart rate, blood pressure and the insulin response were monitored for 90 min in 39 healthy, lean, normotensive subjects (mean age 26 years) who received 100 g of glucose in 300 ml of water (n = 8), 50 g of fat in 250 ml of water (n = 8), 100 g of lean meat corresponding to 40 g of protein with 250 ml of water (n = 8), 300 ml of water only (n = 7) or a mixed meal (1750 kJ) (n = 8).
2. All types of food evoked an increase in muscle nerve sympathetic activity whereas water caused no change. The increase in muscle nerve sympathetic activity was already significant at 15–30 min and was still strongly significant at 90 min. The effect of glucose was significantly greater than that of fat and protein; the mixed meal caused an intermediate response. Blood pressure changes were minor.
3. It is concluded that a sustained increase in muscle nerve sympathetic activity occurs regularly after any type of food intake. A rise in muscle nerve sympathetic activity takes place in the absence of an insulin response, and insulin contributes to only part of the increase after ingestion of glucose or a mixed meal. The muscle nerve sympathetic activity response is thought to be of importance for the redistribution of blood to the splanchnic region after a meal. Lack of this response is likely to explain postprandial hypotension in autonomic failure.