Resistin is an adipokine with putative prodiabetogenic properties. Like other hormones secreted by adipose tissue, resistin is being investigated as a possible etiologic link between excessive adiposity and insulin resistance. Although there is growing evidence that circulating levels of this adipokine are proportional to the degree of adiposity, an effect on insulin resistance in humans remains unproven. To evaluate the relations among resistin, obesity, and insulin resistance, we measured fasting serum resistin levels in 113 nondiabetic (75-g oral glucose tolerance test) Pima Indians (ages 29 ± 7 years, body fat 31 ± 8%, resistin 3.7 ± 1.1 ng/ml [means ± SD]), who were characterized for body composition (assessed by hydrodensitometry or dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry), whole-body insulin sensitivity (M; assessed by hyperinsulinemic clamp), basal hepatic glucose output (BHGO) and hepatic glucose output during low-dosage insulin infusion of a hyperinsulinemic clamp (HGO; a measure of hepatic insulin resistance), and acute insulin secretory response (AIR; assessed by 25-g intravenous glucose tolerance test). Follow-up measurements of M, BHGO, HGO, and AIR were available for 34 subjects who had normal glucose tolerance at baseline and remained nondiabetic at follow-up. The average time to follow-up was 4.5 ± 21.7 years. In cross-sectional analyses, serum resistin levels were positively associated with percent body fat (r = 0.37, P = 0.0001) and 2-h glucose (r = 0.19, P = 0.04), respectively. Serum resistin levels were not associated with fasting glucose and insulin levels, M, BHGO, HGO, or AIR (r = 0.17, 0.12, -0.13, -0.06, -0.03, and -0.04, respectively; all P > 0.05). After adjusting for percent body fat, there was no association between serum resistin levels and 2-h glucose (r = 0.06, P = 0.6). In prospective analyses, high serum resistin levels at baseline were not associated with a decline in M (r = -0.1, P > 0.5). Resistin levels were, however, associated with increases in percent body fat, fasting plasma insulin, and HGO (r = 0.34, 0.36, and 0.37; all P < 0.05) after adjusting for sex, age, and time to follow-up. After additional adjustment for the change in percent body fat, there was no association between baseline serum resistin levels and changes in plasma insulin or HGO (r = 0.26 and 0.23; both P > 0.1). We conclude that in Pima Indians, like other human populations, circulating resistin levels are proportional to the degree of adiposity, but not the degree of insulin resistance. We unexpectedly found that high serum resistin levels do predict future increases in percent body fat. Our data suggest that resistin promotes obesity but not obesity-associated insulin resistance in humans.