The metabolisms of VLDL, IDL, and LDL and their interconversions have been studied in ten obese untreated male Pima Indian diabetics compared to 16 age-, sex-, and weight-matched nondiabetics. VLDL was elevated in the diabetics and had abnormal composition, as indicated by a significantly higher ratio of triglyceride/apo B. Fractional catabolic rates for both VLDL apoB and VLDL triglyceride were lower in diabetics, and diabetics had increased production of VLDL triglyceride but not VLDL apoB compared to obese nondiabetics. A higher proportion of VLDL apoB was removed without conversion to LDL in diabetics. LDL cholesterol and apoB were higher in diabetics, but production of LDL apoB was not different from nondiabetics. Fractional catabolic rate for LDL apoB, however, was significantly lower in the diabetics. The data indicate that the triglyceride-rich VLDL in non-insulin-dependent diabetics are less readily converted to LDL, whereas the elevated LDL in this group of diabetics is due to impaired clearance. Thus, decreased conversion of VLDL to LDL and impaired LDL clearance are two opposing phenomena which may influence the LDL concentration of diabetics in either direction. Thus, despite minimal changes in LDL concentration, there are multiple defects in the metabolism of LDL in non-insulin dependent diabetes which may contribute to the increased atherogenesis in this disorder.