There is evidence linking intrauterine growth retardation with increased cardiovascular risk and diabetes mellitus (DM) later in life. However, little is known about the association between malnutrition during the first year of life and metabolic abnormalities in adulthood. The objective of this study was to assess the effect of documented malnutrition during the first year of life on glucose tolerance, plasma insulin, lipid profile, and blood pressure in early adulthood, as well as to assess the interaction between body mass index (BMI) and malnutrition on these variables. A study group of young men with a documented history of malnutrition during their first year of life was recruited from 4 pediatric hospitals in Mexico City and compared with a control group. Subjects included were 52 men, aged 20.2 +/- 3.6 years, with a mean birth weight of 3.0 +/- 0.7 kg and documented malnutrition in their first year of life; controls were 50 men, aged 23.3 +/- 1.8 years, with a mean birth weight of 3.2 +/- 0.5 kg. Insulin and glucose concentrations, fasting and in response to an oral glucose load, plasma lipids, blood pressure, and an insulin sensitivity index (ISI) were measured. The areas under the curves of glucose (AUCG) and insulin (AUCI) were significantly higher in cases (P =.012 and <.002, respectively), independent of birth weight, BMI, or age. BMI was significantly associated with fasting plasma insulin (FPI), AUCI, ISI, triglyceride, and high-density lipoprotein (HDL)-cholesterol concentrations in cases, but not in controls. These data suggest that early malnutrition in extrauterine life, independently of birth weight, has an adverse effect on insulin metabolism and glucose tolerance in young men, and it worsens as body mass increases even within the normal range of BMI. Therefore, it is advisable to prevent obesity in individuals exposed to early malnutrition.