Insulin resistance may be a factor in the etiology of hypertension, and habitual alcohol intake may modify this relationship. We prospectively examined this hypothesis in 1,133 nonhypertensive, nondiabetic Japanese subjects, aged 40-79 years. Alcohol drinkers were more frequent among men than women at baseline (57.7 vs. 8.2%). The age-adjusted incidence of hypertension significantly increased with the elevating baseline insulin levels in women (P =.003 for trend), but not in men. The age- and sex-adjusted insulin levels and insulin resistance index decreased with elevating alcohol intake, while fasting glucose levels remained unchanged, suggesting that alcohol improves insulin sensitivity. Among nondrinkers, the age-adjusted incidence of hypertension significantly increased with elevating insulin tertiles in both sexes (P =.048 and.002 for trend in men and women, respectively), but not among drinkers. Our findings suggest a close association between insulin resistance and the incidence of hypertension in Japanese. However, alcohol modified and reduced this relationship.