BACKGROUND: In several white populations, visceral adipose tissue (VAT) is a risk factor for development of type 2 diabetes and dyslipidemia. VAT can be accurately assessed by computed topography or magnetic resonance imaging, but is also estimated from anthropometric variables, such as waist-to-hip ratio, waist circumference, or sagittal diameter. To date, anthropometric variables have been used largely in whites and inadequate data are available to evaluate the validity of these variables in other groups. OBJECTIVES: The objectives of this study were to 1) determine whether amount of VAT in relation to total body fatness differs in different race and sex groups and 2) determine which anthropometric variables predict amount of VAT in different race and sex groups. DESIGN: We determined the amount and location of body fat, including assessment of VAT by computed tomography, in young adult white and black men and women participating in the 10-y follow-up of the CARDIA (Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults) Study. RESULTS: Black men had less visceral fat (73.1+/-35.9 cm2) than white men (99.3+/-40 cm2), even when VAT was corrected for total body fatness. Black women were more obese than white women and thus had more visceral fat (75.1+/-37.5 compared with 58.6+/-35.9 cm2, respectively). This difference disappeared when corrected for total body fatness. CONCLUSIONS: Both waist circumference and sagittal diameter were good predictors of VAT in all groups. However, the nature of this relation differed such that race- and sex-specific equations will likely be required to estimate VAT from waist circumference or sagittal diameter.