Growth hormone (GH) secretion is reduced with age in normal subjects. Aging is furthermore associated with a decline in lean body mass and an increase in relative adiposity, and overt obesity is a negative determinant of GH secretion in all age groups. We tested the hypothesis that differences in body composition and physical fitness rather than age determine stimulated GH secretion in healthy adults. Forty-two clinically nonobese adults [22 women and 20 men, mean age 39.4 yr (range 27-59), mean +/- SE body mass index (BMI) = 23.9 +/- 0.5 kg/m2] underwent 2 GH stimulation tests (arginine and clonidine), determination of maximal oxygen consumption (VO2-max), and a number of anthropometric measurements: body mass index (BMI), waist to hip (W/H)-ratio, intraabdominal fat and thigh muscle to fat (M/F)-ratio (computed tomography scan), total body fat, and lean body mass (DEXA scan). Peak GH levels were lower with clonidine [mean +/- SE (micrograms/L): 9.79 +/- 1.29 (arginine) vs. 3.56 +/- 0.57 (clonidine) (P < 0.001)]. Arginine-stimulated GH peak levels correlated negatively with indices of adiposity and age [intraabdominal fat: r = -0.72, P < 0.001; W/H-ratio: r = -0.58, P < 0.001; age: r = -0.54, P < 0.001], and positively with VO2-max [r = 0.60, P < 0.001]. Clonidine-stimulated GH peak correlated negatively with intraabdominal fat [r = -0.60, P < 0.001] and age [r = -0.46, P = 0.008]. Multiple linear regression revealed multicollinearity among several of the independent variables. In all equations abdominal adiposity and physical fitness, rather than age, contributed significantly to predict changes in arginine stimulated GH secretion. Intraabdominal fat was a more important determinant of the clonidine evoked GH response than age. In clinically nonobese, healthy adults relative adiposity, in particular in the abdominal region, is a major negative determinant of stimulated GH secretion, and physical fitness is an important positive predictor. The cause-effect relationship of these observations remains to be elucidated, but our findings may have clinical implications in the diagnosing of GH-deficiency in adults.