Spirometric data from 1586 healthy children, who did not smoke, were analysed to examine the effects of overweight as measured by the body mass index (weight/height2) on lung function. Overweight (72 boys, 88 girls) was defined as on or above the 90th percentile weight for height. After having controlled for the confounding variables of height and age, there were positive partial correlations between body mass index and lung function in girls whose weight was normal, in overweight girls, and in boys whose weight was normal, but not in overweight boys. In contrast to adults, body mass index has a positive effect on lung function in girls, whatever their weight. No such correlation between body mass index and lung function was seen in overweight boys. The observations may be accounted for by distinct sex dependent patterns of fat distribution in children.