An association between the factors of low birth weight and fetal growth retardation and subsequent risk of cardiovascular disease has been proposed; this is the basis of the "thrifty phenotype" hypothesis described in relation to type 2 diabetes mellitus. The relationship between height, presumably an indicator of early life experience, and glucose intolerance and hypertension was examined in a sample survey of noncommunicable disease in an urban African adult population. Height, other anthropometric measurements, and biosocial data were obtained in the study of 998 civil servants selected by multistage sampling in Ibadan, a major Nigerian city. Ibadan is a low-prevalence region for diabetes, with a rate of 0.8% and 2.2% for an impaired glucose tolerance. The prevalence rate of hypertension was 10.3% in the population. A significant negative correlation was found between height and blood glucose level (r = -0.14, p < 0.001), whereas there was no correlation with blood pressures. Multiple regression analyses did not demonstrate height as a determinant of either blood pressure or plasma glucose. However, in a logistic model height was found to be associated with abnormal glucose tolerance (diabetes and impaired glucose tolerance) (odds ratio, 0.01; p < 0.003). In the logistic model of the blood pressure data there was no association between height and hypertension. There was some association between height and blood glucose level and also glucose intolerance in the urban African population sample, but none with elevated blood pressure. The significance of the observed inverse relationship, though uncertain, deserves further exploration.