Despite nearly 40 years of research, the role of plasma triglyceride as a risk factor for cardiovascular disease remains elusive. The objectives of the present study were to quantify the magnitude of the association between triglyceride and cardiovascular disease in the general population, and to determine whether this relationship is independent of high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, using the semi-quantitative techniques of metaanalysis. Seventeen studies were selected for the analysis based on published reports of population-based, prospective studies, including 46413 men and 10864 women. To insure comparability, only studies reporting the association between fasting triglyceride levels and incident cardiovascular endpoints were included. Using standard meta-analysis calculations, relative risks (RR) and 95% confidence intervals (CI) were calculated and standardized with respect to a 1 mmol/l increase in triglyceride. Multivariable-adjusted RRs were determined for the six studies in men and two studies in women that reported adjustments for HDL cholesterol. For men and women, the univariate RRs for triglyceride were 1.32 (95% Cl 1.26-1.39) and 1.76 (95% Cl 1.50-2.07), respectively, indicating an approximately 30% increased risk in men and a 75% increase in women. Adjustment of HDL cholesterol and other risk factors attenuated these RRs to 1.14 (95% Cl 1.05-1.28) and 1.37 (95% Cl 1.13-1.66), respectively, which were still statistically significant values. Based on combined data from prospective studies, triglyceride is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease for both men and women in the general population, independent of HDL cholesterol. These finding demonstrate the necessity for clinical trials to evaluate whether lowering plasma triglyceride decreases the risk of cardiovascular disease.