The relationship between abnormalities in carbohydrate metabolism and hypertension was studied in 143 newly detected hypertensive patients (59% obese) of both sexes (90 males, 53 females) and compared with 51 normotensive controls. Insulin-mediated glucose disposal assessed with the euglycemic insulin clamp technique was significantly decreased in both non-obese (7.2 +/- 2.1 mg/kg/min; P less than .05) and obese hypertensives (5.1 +/- 2.1 mg/kg/min; P less than .01) compared with the controls (8.4 +/- 1.8 mg/kg/min). The decrease in insulin sensitivity and increase in basal insulin as well as a decreased rate of glucose disposal after an intravenous glucose tolerance test (IVGTT) were verified also after statistical adjustment for sex, age, body mass index, and waist-hip ratio. The insulin index (ratio between peak and basal insulin) during IVGTT was significantly decreased in the hypertensive patients (P less than .001). After the statistical adjustment for the factors mentioned the following lipid abnormalities were still significant: total cholesterol (6.25 +/- 1.12 mmol/L non-obese; 6.06 +/- 1.20 mmol/L obese; 5.41 +/- 1.02 mmol/L controls), triglycerides (1.70 +/- 0.74 mmol/L nonobese; 2.26 +/- 1.13 mmol/L obese; 1.24 +/- 0.53 mmol/L controls) and free fatty acids (0.57 +/- 0.20 mmol/L nonobese; 0.59 +/- 0.20 mmol/L obese; 0.48 +/- 0.15 mmol/L controls). This study shows that after correction for a series of probable confounding variables, hypertension emerges as part of a syndrome characterized by major abnormalities of carbohydrate, insulin, and lipid metabolism, which independently or in concert may act as important risk factors for cardiovascular disease.