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To investigate whether the reported association between insulin resistance and hypertension in spontaneously hypertensive rats (SHR) is a primary defect or a secondary phenomenon in hypertension.Comparisons of glucose metabolism between three groups of hypertensive rats: deoxycorticosterone (DOCA)-salt hypertensive rats; two-kidney, one clip renovascular hypertensive (RVH) rats; SHR; and their respective control groups. There was also an additional group of weight-matched SHR and respective Wistar—Kyoto (WKY) controls.A trace amount of 3H-deoxyglucose (3H-DOG) was administered in vivo to evaluate its plasma half-life and tissue uptake. In vitro adipose tissue segments were incubated with 14C-glucose and increasing doses of insulin.Compared with age-matched WKY rats, SHR had significantly higher insulin levels, longer plasma half-life and lower 3H-DOC uptake by heart and striated muscle. Plasma glucose levels and incorporation of 14C-glucose into CO2, triglycerides and glycogen by adipose tissue in response to increasing insulin concentrations was similar for both groups of SHR and WKY rats. No differences were found between hypertensive rats and controls in either the DOCA or RVH groups.Evidence of insulin resistance in spontaneous, but not secondary, rat hypertension indicates that the resistance is a primary rather than a secondary event in hypertension.