The Isle of Ely Diabetes Project is a prospective population-based study of the aetiology and pathogenesis of Type 2 diabetes mellitus. Between 1990 and 1992, 1156 subjects aged between 40 and 65 years underwent a standard 75 g oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT). A total of 1122 individuals who were not known to have diabetes completed the test and were classified according to WHO criteria; 51 subjects (4.5%) had previously undiagnosed diabetes and 188 (16.7%) had impaired glucose tolerance. The subjects with newly diagnosed glucose intolerance were significantly older, more obese, and shorter than those with normal glucose tolerance. Blood pressure, cholesterol, triglyceride, and LDL-cholesterol concentrations were elevated and HDL-cholesterol levels were lower among those with abnormal rather than normal glucose tolerance. In multiple regression analyses stratified by gender and including age, body mass index, and the waist-hip ratio as covariates, there were significant differences between those with normal and abnormal glucose intolerance in blood pressure, triglyceride, and HDL-cholesterol, but not total or LDL-cholesterol. In both male and female subjects, height had a significant independent negative association with the plasma glucose at 120 min after administration of oral glucose (standardized beta coefficient = -0.12, p < 0.01).