The relationship of body mass index and waist-hip ratio with plasma glucose concentrations during an oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT) was studied in native Indian (Asian) subjects. A total of 389 subjects (131 non-diabetic, 74 impaired glucose tolerant (IGT) and 184 Type 2 diabetic (newly diagnosed and untreated)) were studied. Prevalence of obesity (BMI 27.0 kg m−2 in men and 25.0 kg m−2 in women, 21% and 47%, respectively) was lower in people with Type 2 diabetes than that reported in white Caucasian and migrant Asian populations. Body mass index was highest in IGT subjects (26.1 (19.7−34.3) kg m−2, median (5-95th centile)) and was higher in diabetic subjects (24.2 (19.3−32.2) kg m−2) than in non-diabetic control subjects (23.5 (17.1−30.0) kg m−2). However, waist-hip ratio was higher in both IGT (0.88 (0.75−0.98)) and diabetic subjects (0.88 (0.75−1.00)) than in non-diabetic control subjects (0.83 (0.70−0.97)), with no difference between the hyperglycaemic groups. On multivariate analysis, fasting as well as 2-h plasma glucose concentrations during OGTT were found to be related to waist-hip ratio (p<0.01) and subscapular fat thickness (p<0.01) but not to body mass index (or triceps fat thickness). Thus, in native Indians central obesity seems to be a more important association of hyperglycaemia than generalized obesity.