The relative effect of visceral and subcutaneous obesity on the risk of chronic metabolic disease has been a matter of long-term dispute. While ample data support either of the fat depots being causative or associative, valid argument for one depot often automatically belittles the other. Paradigms such as the visceral/portal hypothesis and the acquired lipodystrophy/ectopic fat storage and endocrine hypothesis have been proposed. Nevertheless, neither hypothesis alone explains the entire pathophysiological setting. Treatment of diabetes with thiazolidinediones selectively increases fat partitioning to the subcutaneous adipose depot but does not change visceral fat accumulation. This is in contrast to the preferential visceral fat mobilisation by diet and exercise. Surgical removal of visceral or subcutaneous adipose tissue yields relatively long-lasting metabolic improvement only when combined with procedures that ameliorate adipose tissue cell composition. These studies illustrate that human adipose tissue in different anatomic locations does not work in isolation, and that there is a best-fit relationship in terms of volume and function among different fat depots that needs to be met to maintain the systemic energy balance and to prevent the complications related to obesity.