Fasting and postprandial plasma concentrations of glucose, FFA, insulin, glucagon, and GH concentrations were determined in 10 nonobese and 10 obese subjects with normal glucose tolerance. Measurements were made at 0800 h (after a 14-h fast) and at hourly intervals from then until 1600 h. During this time period all individuals ate breakfast at 0800 h (20% of total daily calories) and lunch (40% of total daily calories). Although plasma glucose concentrations were similar throughout the 8-h period in the 2 groups, plasma insulin concentrations were significantly (P less than 0.001) higher in the obese individuals. However, despite the presence of hyperinsulinemia, the obese group also had higher (P less than 0.001) plasma FFA concentration throughout the day. On the other hand, both the absolute and the relative declines in plasma FFA concentration after meals were similar in the 2 groups. Since plasma glucagon and GH concentrations were similar in the 2 groups, altered production of these lipolytic hormones was not responsible for the elevated plasma FFA levels in the obese individuals. These data document the presence in obese individuals of a disassociation in their ability to maintain normal plasma glucose as opposed to plasma FFA homeostasis, and indicate that the increase in plasma FFA concentrations in obesity occurs in the presence of hyperinsulinemia and is not related to abnormalities of either glucagon or GH secretion.