We sought to evaluate the effect of the new definition of impaired fasting glucose (IFG = fasting glucose concentration 100-125 mg/dL among people without diabetes) on the ability to identify insulin resistance, as well as the prevalence of the metabolic syndrome in apparently healthy individuals. From the Stanford General Clinical Research Center data-base, we used data from 230 men and 260 women aged 19-79 years who had had an insulin suppression test to measure insulin resistance. From the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (1988-1994), we used data from 8814 participants aged > or =20 years to estimate the impact of adopting the new IFG criteria on the prevalence of the metabolic syndrome. Among the 490 participants, the prevalence of IFG increased from 5.5% under the old definition of IFG to 20.4% under the new definition. Using the old definition of IFG, the sensitivity, specificity, and positive predictive value (PPV) of IFG of identifying an individual as being insulin resistant were 10%, 97%, and 63%, respectively. Using the new definition, these parameters were 33%, 88%, and 61%, respectively. If the new IFG criteria were adopted, the prevalence of the metabolic syndrome would increase from 21.8% to 26.3%. The new definition of IFG expands the population with insulin resistance by almost four-fold and could expand the population with the metabolic syndrome by about 20%. The clinical and public health implications of the new IFG definition remain to be elucidated.