Abstract Background and aims Obesity, an independent risk factor for cardiovascular disease (CVD), has been associated with the early development of coronary atherosclerosis in adolescents and young men. A subset of metabolically obese but normal weight individuals was identified, with potentially increased risks for development of the metabolic syndrome despite their normal body mass index. We determined the relationship among body fat distribution and selected CVD risk factors to distinguish normal weight obese from controls with normal metabolic profiles. Methods and results We analysed anthropometric variables, body composition by DXA, RMR by indirect calorimetry and bioumoral variables of 74 clinically healthy Caucasian Italian women. Significant differences were observed in the biochemical HDL-chol values between NWO and controls and pre-obese-obese. Significant correlations were found among cardiovascular risk indexes, LEAN of the right part of the trunk and TC/HDL ( R = −0.69, p < 0.001) and LDL/HDL ( R = −0.72, p < 0.001), and LEAN and RMR ( R = 0.44, p = 0.022) of NWO women. Conclusions In normal weight obese women the cardiovascular risk indexes are related to metabolic variables and to body fat mass distribution. NWO individuals showed a relationship between the decrease in LEAN of the left leg and an increase in CVD risk factors. We suggest that LEAN distribution seems to be a potential predictor of CVD.