Central and peripheral fatness seem to confer opposite (i.e. adverse vs. protective) effects on cardiovascular risk, but how this occurs is not clear. In addition, the role of peripheral lean mass needs to be elucidated. We therefore investigated, in 336 (175 women) 36-yr-old and apparently healthy adults, the relationship between trunk fat, peripheral fat, and peripheral lean mass on the one hand, and estimates of stiffness of three large arteries on the other. Body composition was assessed by dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry. Arterial properties were assessed by ultrasound imaging. We found that 1) trunk fat was positively (i.e. adversely) associated with stiffness of the carotid and femoral arteries, whereas peripheral fat was inversely (i.e. favorably) associated with stiffness of the brachial and the carotido-femoral segment; 2) peripheral lean mass was positively associated with arterial diameter and carotid compliance and inversely associated with stiffness of the carotido-femoral segment; and 3) after adjustment for the other body composition variables, the above-mentioned associations remained, but peripheral fat in addition became, if anything, favorably associated with stiffness of the femoral artery. We conclude that trunk fat is adversely associated with large artery stiffness, whereas some degree of protection is conferred by peripheral fat and lean mass.