Small dense LDL particles (B phenotype) are considered to be more atherogenic than large buoyant LDL particles. The influence of glycemic control on LDL particle size and density is still under debate. The aim of this study was to determine LDL subfraction phenotype in both IDDM and NIDDM patients in poor glycemic control compared with that of respective matched control groups. In addition, we evaluated the effect of a 3-month period of optimized glycemic control on this parameter. Thirty-seven IDDM patients and 33 NIDDM patients, together with two respective age-, sex-, and BMI-matched control groups were studied. Non-A phenotype prevalence in IDDM patients before (19%) and after blood glucose optimization (11%) was similar to that of their control group (12%). However, NIDDM patients displayed a higher proportion of the non-A phenotype (51%) than did the control group (28%), but it became closer (30%, P < 0.05) after glycemic control improved. All subjects with non-A phenotype that changed to A phenotype showed triglyceride levels below 1.63 mmol/l and a greater decrease in HbA(1c) than did subjects whose phenotype did not change (4.9 ± 1.5 vs. 3.1 ± 1.4%, P < 0.05). A higher proportion of small dense LDL was observed in NIDDM women than in nondiabetic women (LDL5 10.0 ± 4.8 vs. 6.3 ± 1.5%, LDL6 6.1 ± 2.2 vs. 4.2 ± 0.8%, P < 0.05) during both stages of glycemic control, but no differences were observed between NIDDM and nondiabetic men. In conclusion, these findings provide new evidence for the relevance of near-normal glycemic control in the prevention of macrovascular disease and could contribute to an explanation of the loss of protection for cardiovascular disease in diabetic women.