The prevalence and risk of having impaired glucose tolerance (IGT) and diabetes was estimated relative to body mass index (BMI) among Australian Aboriginal people. A stratified analysis was undertaken of community screening data. Measures included fasting and 2-h glucose concentrations, and BMI (five strata: <22, 22-24.9, 25-29.9, 30-34.9 and >/=35 kg/m(2)). Age was stratified into three groups: 15-34.9, 35-44.9, and >/=45 years. Participants were men and women, ages 15-94 years (n=2626). The prevalence of IGT and diabetes, respectively, adjusted for age and BMI, was 139 and 142 cases/1000 persons among men, and 157 and 152 cases/1000 persons among women. Odds ratios (95% CI) for IGT and diabetes for increasing BMI strata >/=22 kg/m(2) ranged from 1.7 (1.0 to 2.9) to 5.1 (2.4-10.5) for IGT, and from 2.0 (1.2-3.5) to 6.1 (3.3-11.1) for diabetes. For IGT and diabetes, across genders, the population attributable risk percentages (95% CI) for BMI >/=22 kg/m(2) were 34.1% (26.2-41.9%) for IGT, and 46.4% (38.5-54.5%) for diabetes. Diabetes and IGT have reached epidemic proportions among Australian Aboriginal people. An urgent need exists for programmes to reduce the prevalence of diabetes risk factors, especially BMI of 22 kg/m(2) or more, a limit lower than advocated for Euro-American populations.