To distinguish the relative role of intra-abdominal and subcutaneous abdominal fat in metabolic aberrations in upper body fat localization, we measured the relationship between regional fat distribution and insulin sensitivity in nine young men (28.6 +/- 0.7 years; body mass index [BMI], 24.7 +/- 1.3 kg/m2). Regional fat distribution was measured by anthropometric measurement and computed tomography (CT). Insulin sensitivity was measured by euglycemic hyperinsulinemic glucose clamp. Insulin sensitivity, expressed as the ratio of rate of glucose utilization to the mean plasma insulin concentration during the second hour of glucose clamp (M/I) was negatively correlated with BMI (r = -.91, P less than .001), waist to hip girth ratio (WHR) (r = -.80, P less than .01), subcutaneous abdominal fat area (r = -.90, P less than .001), and intra-abdominal fat area (r = -.88, P less than .01). Stepwise forward regression analysis showed that in addition to BMI, intra-abdominal fat area was a significant correlate of decrease in insulin sensitivity. These findings suggest that intra-abdominal fat play an important role in decreasing insulin sensitivity, even in healthy young men.