It is unclear whether visceral obesity is largely responsible for an increased risk of coronary artery disease. In the present study, 1,054 men underwent coronary artery calcium (CAC) scoring and abdominal computed tomography. Risk factor information, body mass index, waist circumference, and waist-to-hip ratio were collected for all participants. The total fat, visceral fat, and subcutaneous fat areas were also quantified at the level of the umbilicus using computed tomography. We then investigated the association of these obesity parameters with the CAC score. Participants with a CAC score >10 had a larger waist circumference (97 +/- 12 vs 95 +/- 12 cm, p <0.001), a larger total fat area (434 cm(2), interquartile range 339 to 565, vs 415 cm(2), interquartile range 315 to 521; p = 0.005), a larger visceral fat area (200 cm(2), interquartile range 143 to 256, vs 175 cm(2), interquartile range 124 to 225; p <0.001), and a greater waist-to-hip ratio (0.93 +/- 0.07 vs 0.91 +/- 0.07, p <0.001) than those with a CAC score of < or =10. Those with a CAC score >10 also tended to have a greater body mass index and larger subcutaneous fat area. After adjusting for traditional cardiovascular risk factors, however, only a large waist circumference (odds ratio 1.5, 95% confidence interval 1.04 to 2.0), a high total fat area (odds ratio 1.5, 95% confidence interval 1.1 to 2.1), and a high waist-to-hip ratio (odds ratio 1.6, 95% confidence interval 1.2 to 2.3) remained significantly associated with a CAC score >10. In conclusion, the measures of central obesity were more strongly associated with the CAC score than either the parameters assessing overall obesity or other more direct measures of visceral adiposity. These findings suggest that the total amount of central obesity is more important than the relative distribution of visceral versus subcutaneous fat.