Recent reports suggest that the white blood cell (WBC) count is related to plasma insulin concentrations and insulin resistance in healthy individuals. The present study examines whether these relations are independent of obesity and the pattern of body fat distribution and tests whether race and gender affect these relations. WBC counts, insulin responses to a 75 gram oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT) and glucose disposal during a two-step hyperinsulinemic euglycemic clamp were measured in 300 men and women (149 Pima Indians, 100 whites, and 51 blacks) with a wide range of obesity. WBC counts were lower in blacks than Pima Indians or whites and tended to be higher in women than men. The subgroups were comparable in age and body weight, but percent body fat and plasma insulin concentrations were higher and glucose disposal during the glucose clamp was lower in Pima Indians than in blacks or whites. In the group as a whole, the WBC count correlated with obesity (body mass index and percent body fat), the waist to thigh ratio (an index of the pattern of body fat distribution), and plasma insulin concentrations and was negatively related to age and glucose disposal during the clamp. In multiple regression analyses, only age, race and obesity were significantly associated with the WBC count. When the analyses were restricted to Pima men, in whom correlations between the WBC count and the metabolic variables appeared the strongest, the WBC count remained significantly associated with plasma insulin concentrations, but not glucose disposal, after controlling for age and obesity. The results of this study indicate that age, race, and obesity are significantly associated with the WBC count in healthy individuals. Plasma insulin concentrations, but not insulin resistance per se, may also be weakly associated with the WBC count, but this may be population specific.