Assessment of the relative clinical usefulness of glycosylated haemoglobin (HbA1) and serum fructosamine is complicated by their markedly different half-lives. They have therefore been compared using a number of indices derived from data on biological variation, as applied in a study of blood glucose control in newly diagnosed diabetic patients. The within-subject (CVI) and between-subject (CVG) variation of fructosamine and HbA1 were assessed in 8 stable diabetic patients. A slightly smaller relative change, or critical difference, is required between serial HbA1 results than between fructosamine results before a significant change can be said to have occurred. The heterogeneity of within-subject variance is also less for HbA1, rendering the critical difference more generally applicable. HbA1 may therefore be more appropriate for long-term monitoring. Monitoring of blood glucose control of a group of 26 newly diagnosed diabetic patients before the commencement of therapy and 1, 2, and 3 months later by serum fructosamine or HbA1 provided very similar information. Fructosamine responds more rapidly with changes of blood glucose control. However, whether this confers any clinical advantage will depend upon the frequency of testing.