Oral glucose tolerance tests were performed in the morning and afternoon of separate days on 31 people derived from a normal population sample. Blood sugar levels were higher in the afternoon test from and including 60 minutes after the glucose load. The degree of diurnal variation was similar in men and women, but greater in the older half of the group. It was negatively correlated with the degree of obesity. The plasma insulin response was less at the 30 minute time point in the afternoon, but significantly exceeded the morning values at 120 and 150 minutes after the glucose load. Growth hormone levels were similar in morning and afternoon tests. Fasting non-esterified fatty acid levels were significantly higher before the afternoon test. The relatively impaired glucose tolerance in the afternoon is associated with a delayed insulin response to the glucose load. This seems unlikely to be the sole explanation, however, and increased non-esterified fatty acid metabolism with a consequent decrease in glucose disposal may also contribute.