The purpose of this study was to evaluate the variability of subcutaneous abdominal adipose tissue (AT) dynamics in obese subjects with a wide range of insulin sensitivity (IS) and the correlation between these two metabolic measures. Ten obese (BMI 30-40 kg/m²) nondiabetic subjects with (n = 6) and without (n = 4) the metabolic syndrome were studied following a 12-wk ²H₂O labeling period. Subcutaneous abdominal AT biopsies were collected. Deuterium incorporation into triglyceride (TG)-glycerol and TG-palmitate were measured by gas chromatography-mass spectrometry for the calculation of fractional TG synthesis (fTG) and fractional de novo lipogenesis (fDNL). Muscle IS and insulin-mediated nonesterified fatty acid (NEFA) suppression (a measure for adipose IS) indexes were derived from the oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT). The ability of subcutaneous abdominal AT to synthesize lipids varied significantly in obese subjects (fTG range 7-28%, fDNL range 1.1-4.6%) with significantly lower values (>35% reduction) for both parameters in obese with the metabolic syndrome. fTG correlated positively with muscle IS (r = 0.64, P = 0.04) and inversely with NEFA suppression during the OGTT (r = -0.69, P = 0.03). These results demonstrate a large variability in subcutaneous abdominal AT lipid turnover in obesity. Moreover, a reduced capacity for subcutaneous abdominal AT fat storage is associated with muscle and adipose tissue insulin resistance as well as with the metabolic syndrome, thus identifying a form of obesity at heightened risk for type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.