The importance of body fat distribution as a predictor of metabolic aberrations was evaluated in 9 nonobese and 25 obese, apparently healthy women. Plasma glucose and insulin levels during oral glucose loading were significantly higher in women with predominantly upper body segment obesity than in women with lower body segment obesity. Of the former group, 10 of 16 subjects had diabetic glucose tolerance results, while none of the latter group was diabetic. Fasting plasma triglyceride levels were also significantly higher in the upper body segment obese women. The site of adiposity in the upper body segment obese women was comprised of large fat cells, while in the lower body segment obese subjects, it was formed of normal size cells. In both types of obesity, abdominal fat cell size correlated significantly with postprandial plasma glucose and insulin levels. Thigh fat cell size gave no indication as to the presence of metabolic complications. Thigh adipocytes were also resistant to epinephrine-stimulated lipolysis, presumably due to an increase in alpha-adrenergic receptors. Thus, in women, the sites of fat predominance offer an important prognostic marker for glucose intolerance, hyperinsulinemia, and hypertriglyceridemia. This association may be related to the disparate morphology and metabolic behavior of fat cells associated with different body fat distributions.