Although plasma insulin and triglyceride concentrations are positively correlated in many studies, the relationships between insulin resistance, insulin secretion and hypertriglyceridaemia remain unclear. To study these associations, subjects between the ages of 40 and 64 were randomly selected from a general practice register and invited to attend for a standard oral glucose tolerance test for measurement of insulin, triglyceride and non-esterified fatty acid concentrations. The study comprised 1122 subjects who were not previously known to have diabetes and who completed the test. Using the World Health Organisation criteria, 51 subjects were classified to have non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus, 188 had impaired glucose tolerance and 883 subjects had normal glucose tolerance. Triglyceride concentrations in subjects with glucose intolerance were elevated compared to those in control subjects, even after adjustment for age, obesity and gender (p < 0.001 for subjects with diabetes and p < 0.01 for those with impaired glucose tolerance compared to normal subjects). In separate multiple regression analyses for males and females, the most important determinants of the plasma triglyceride concentration were the area under the non-esterified fatty acid suppression curve (p < 0.001 in both genders) and the waist-hip ratio (p < 0.001 for men and < 0.01 for women). The fasting insulin concentration was independently associated with triglyceride concentration in women only (p < 0.01). The most important determinant of the area under the non-esterified fatty acid suppression curve in men was the 30-min insulin increment, a measure of insulin secretion, (p < 0.001) whereas for women age (p < 0.001) and the body mass index (p < 0.01) were the most important.