The aim of this study is to assess whether gender and body mass index (BMI) should be considered in developing thresholds to define GH deficiency, using GH responses to GHRH + arginine (ARG) stimulation and insulin tolerance test (ITT). Thirty-nine healthy subjects (19 males, 20 females; ages 21-50 yr) underwent GHRH + ARG, and another 27 subjects (19 males, 8 females; ages 20-49 yr) underwent ITT. Peak GH response was significantly higher (P = 0.005) after GHRH + ARG than with ITT, and this difference could not be explained by age, gender, or BMI. Peak GH response was negatively correlated with BMI in both tests (GHRH + ARG, r = -0.76; and ITT, r = -0.65). Peak GH response to GHRH + ARG was higher in females than males (P = 0.004; ratio = 2.4), but it was attenuated after eliminating the influence of BMI (P = 0.13; ratio = 1.6). No significant gender differences were found in peak GH responses to ITT, which could be due to the smaller number of female subjects studied. GH response to GHRH + ARG and ITT stimulation is sensitive to BMI differences and less so to gender differences. A higher BMI is associated with a depressed GH response to both stimulation tests. BMI should therefore be considered as a factor when defining the diagnostic cut-off points in the assessment of GH deficiency, whereas whether gender should be likewise used is inconclusive from this study.