With the release of the new 1997 American Diabetes Association diagnostic criteria, a new category was introduced, termed "impaired fasting glucose" (IFG). The metabolic abnormalities of individuals with IFG, compared with those with impaired glucose tolerance (IGT) (World Health Organization criteria), remain to be elucidated. We assessed insulin action (hyperinsulinemic clamp), insulin secretion (25-g intravenous glucose tolerance test), and endogenous glucose output (EGO) (3-(3)H-glucose) in 434 nondiabetic Pima Indians with either normal (NFG; <6.1 mmol/l) or impaired (IFG; 6.1-7.0 mmol/l) fasting glucose and with either normal (NGT; 2-h glucose <7.8 mmol/l) or impaired (IGT; 2-h glucose 7.8-11.1 mmol/l) glucose tolerance: NFG/NGT (n = 307), IFG/NGT (n = 11), NFG/IGT (n = 98), and IFG/IGT (n = 18). Compared with the NFG/NGT group, individuals with IFG/NGT had lower maximal insulin-stimulated glucose disposal (M; -20%, P < 0.01), a lower acute insulin response (AIR) to intravenous glucose (-33%, P < 0.05), and higher EGO (8%, P = 0.055). Individuals with NFG/IGT also had lower M (-21%, P < 0.001) and lower AIR (-8%, P < 0.05), but normal EGO (-1%, NS). Individuals with IFG/IGT showed the most severe abnormalities in M (-27%), AIR (-51%), and EGO (+13%) (all P < 0.001 compared with NFG/NGT). These group differences could be explained by the observation that AIR and EGO, but not M, were more strongly related to the fasting than to the 2-h glucose concentration. Thus, Pima Indians with isolated IFG and isolated IGT show similar impairments in insulin action, but those with isolated IFG have a more pronounced defect in early insulin secretion and, in addition, increased EGO. More severe metabolic abnormalities are present in Pima Indians with combined IFG and IGT.