It is not clear whether the glucose tolerance test diagnosis of Impaired Glucose Tolerance introduced in the recent revisions of diagnostic criteria is associated with abnormalities of intermediary metabolism other than glucose. Intermediary metabolite concentrations have therefore been studied fasting and in response to oral glucose in 35 patients referred with morbid obesity accompanied by either normal glucose tolerance (18 patients) or Impaired Glucose Tolerance (17 patients). When fasting obese patients with Impaired Glucose Tolerance had significantly higher blood total ketone body concentrations, 0.24 (0.19-0.30) vs 0.14 (0.12-0.16) mmol l-1 (antilog of mean-SE to mean + SE) (p less than 0.05), and lower blood glycerol concentrations, 0.14 +/- 0.01 vs 0.18 +/- 0.01 mmol l-1 (mean +/- SE) (p less than 0.05), than obese patients with normal glucose tolerance. There were no significant differences in fasting insulin, 16 (15-18) vs 14 (12-15) mU l-1, or glucose levels, 5.3 +/- 0.2 vs 5.1 +/- 0.2 mmol l-1. After oral glucose there was an exaggerated rise in glucose, insulin, lactate, and pyruvate in patients with Impaired Glucose Tolerance.