Metabolic effects of pindolol and propranolol were investigated in a randomised study of double-blind, double-dummy design in 39 Caucasians with newly detected hypertension. Each active treatment period was 6 months long. A euglycaemic hyperinsulinaemic clamp test was done to measure insulin sensitivity, and i.v. glucose tolerance was investigated with insulin determinations. Lipoprotein concentrations were quantified and lipoprotein lipase activities were determined in muscle and adipose tissue and in plasma after heparin injection. The blood pressure was significantly reduced by both regimes. The insulin sensitivity index was decreased by 34% during propranolol treatment and by 17% during pindolol treatment. The insulin concentrations in plasma were elevated at the end of the i.v. glucose tolerance test but were not high enough to compensate for the insulin resistance, so HbA1c and glucose concentrations were increased. A significant reduction of lipoprotein lipase activity in skeletal muscle during propranolol treatment probably explains the pronounced increase in serum triglyceride concentration during propranolol treatment despite lower free fatty acids and higher lipoprotein lipase activity in adipose tissue. These changes of lipoprotein lipase activity were not correlated to the changes in insulin sensitivity. In summary, the metabolic effects were significantly less pronounced with pindolol than with propranolol, which probably can be ascribed to the agonistic effect of pindolol on beta 2 adrenoceptors.