Although the waist-to-hip ratio (WHR) has emerged as the best anthropometric indicator of the body's adipose tissue distribution, it has never been directly validated. Waist and hip girths, and triceps and subscapular skinfold thickness were measured in 12 male and 13 female cadavers aged 55-94 y. Adipose tissue from the upper limbs, lower limbs, subcutaneous trunk and intra-abdominal regions was then separated by dissection and weighed. Adipose volumes were also determined by hydrostatic weighing. The following adipose tissue mass ratios (and corresponding volume ratios) were derived: trunk to sum of lower limbs, trunk to sum of upper and lower limbs, intra-abdominal to sum of lower limbs and intra-abdominal to sum of upper and lower limbs. Centrality index (CI-subscapular-to-triceps skinfold ratio) and WHR were regressed on the tissue mass and volume ratios of the 25 cadavers. WHR was significantly related to mass and volume ratios for the 12 men (R 2 = 36.0-57.5%, P<0.05), except for intra-abdominal to sum of upper and lower limbs (R2=26.3%, P=0.09), but none of these relations was significant in the women. CI was significantly related to all mass and volume ratios only for men and women combined (R 2=16.2-21.8%, P<0.05). The WHR was better related to all mass and volume ratios than the CI. These results, especially the strong association between WHR and the ratio of intra-abdominal to lower limb adipose masses (R2=35.4%, P=0.002), demonstrate a clear relation between the selected anthropometric variables (hip and waist girths, and subscapular and triceps skinfolds) and adipose tissue distribution, thus validating the use of WHR as an important predictor of health risk.