The relationships between abdominal and pelvic fat compartments and glucose and lipid metabolism were investigated in early postmenopausal women. Fifty-five healthy, postmenopausal women aged 52-53 yr participated in the study. Fat distribution (intra-abdominal and sc abdominal fat, and intrapelvic and sc pelvic fat) was estimated by computed tomography. Insulin sensitivity was assessed by euglycemic hyperinsulinemic clamp. In a multiple regression analysis, the size of the intra-abdominal fat compartment was the only significant predictor of insulin sensitivity (r(2) = 24%; P = 0.0002). Plasma triglycerides were closely related to the size of the intra-abdominal fat compartment (r(2) = 26%; P < 0.0001), whereas plasma free fatty acid concentrations only correlated to the size of the sc abdominal fat compartment (r(2) = 18.5%, P = 0.001). In early postmenopausal women the amount of the intra-abdominal fat strongly influences insulin sensitivity and plasma triglyceride levels, whereas plasma free fatty acids are closely related to the amount of the sc abdominal fat. Accordingly, from a metabolic standpoint it seems most essential to reduce intra-abdominal fat in postmenopausal women.