The E23K polymorphism of the pancreatic β-cell ATP-sensitive K+ (KATP) channel subunit Kir6.2 (KCNJ11) is associated with type 2 diabetes in whites, and a recent in vitro study of the E23K variant suggests that the association to diabetes might be explained by a slight inhibition of serum insulin release. In a study comprising 519 unrelated glucose-tolerant subjects, we addressed the question as to whether the E23K variant was related to reduced serum insulin release during an oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT). Furthermore, the polymorphism was examined in a case-control study comprising 803 type 2 diabetic patients and 862 glucose-tolerant control subjects. The E23K variant was associated with significant reductions in the insulinogenic index (P = 0.022) and serum insulin levels under the response curve during an OGTT (0-120 min) (P = 0.014) as well as with an increase in BMI (P = 0.013). In the present study, the association of the E23K polymorphism with type 2 diabetes was not significant (P = 0.26). However, the K23K genotype significantly associated with type 2 diabetes in a meta-analysis of white case and control subjects (n = 2,824, odds ratio [OR] 1.49, P = 0.00022). In conclusion, the widespread E23K polymorphism may have a diabetogenic effect by impairing glucose-induced insulin release and increasing BMI.