Elevated plasma levels of triglyceride-rich lipoproteins, a decreased high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol concentration, hyperinsulinemia, and impaired fibrinolytic function frequently aggregate in patients with premature coronary heart disease (CHD). Experimental studies suggest that the cytokine tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNFalpha) produced by adipocytes plays a part in the regulation of triglyceride and glucose metabolism. The present study examined whether TNFalpha is implicated in these metabolic and fibrinolytic disturbances in young postinfarction patients. TNFalpha levels were determined in two groups of young (age <45 years) male postinfarction patients (n = 92 and 60) and in matched, population-based control subjects (n = 63). Plasma TNFalpha was higher in patients than in controls (4.1 +/- 1.6 v2.5 +/- 0.4 pg/mL, P < .0001). In hyperlipidemic patients, TNFalpha levels correlated significantly with the concentrations of very-low-density lipoprotein (VLDL) triglyceride and cholesterol and negatively with HDL cholesterol. Treatment with bezafibrate decreased VLDL triglycerides and increased HDL cholesterol, but did not affect TNFalpha levels. The TNFalpha concentration also correlated significantly with fasting glucose and proinsulin concentrations, as well as glucose and proinsulin levels after glucose ingestion. In contrast, no relations were found with the insulin level or degree of insulin resistance. The present results provide clinical evidence for a basic role of TNFalpha in hypertriglyceridemia, glucose intolerance, and the etiology of premature CHD.