Epidemiological studies have indicated a relationship between overweight and cardiovascular disease. The present investigation was undertaken to identify anthropometric variables in childhood which may reflect the risk of cardiovascular disease in terms of unfavourable changes in apolipoprotein and lipid concentrations. Twenty-nine obese 14-year-olds and 32 obese 12-year-olds were recruited from a school screening programme and anthropometric data reflecting overweight and fat distribution were subjected to analysis of covariance, with blood pressure, apolipoprotein and lipid concentrations as dependent variables. Results from the two groups were adjusted for puberty, gender and screening group, allowing pooling of data. After such an adjustment, waist circumference was significantly correlated (r = partial correlation coefficient) to high density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol (r = -0.08, p < 0.05) and triglycerides (r = +0.24, p < 0.01). The waist:hip ratio was significantly correlated to HDL-cholesterol (r = -0.10, p < 0.01) and triglycerides (r = +0.22, p < 0.01). BMI was significantly correlated to triglycerides (r = +0.25, p < 0.001), and diastolic blood pressure (r = +0.08, p < 0.05). The partial regression coefficients for waist circumference versus apolipoprotein B (r = +0.07) and the apolipoprotein B:A-I ratio (r = +0.06) were as strong as those for waist:hip ratio (r = +0.03 and r = +0.05, respectively). Our results demonstrate that abdominal obesity is associated with an unfavourable lipid profile in obese 12-14-year-old children. This may be related to an increased cardiovascular risk later in life. The waist measurement appears to be a convenient and informative anthropometric indicator of such metabolic alterations.