Insulin resistance is the underlying mechanism for the metabolic syndrome and associated dyslipidaemia that theoretically implies a practical tool for identifying individuals at risk for cardiovascular disease and type-2-diabetes. Another screening tool is the hypertriglyceremic-waist phenotype (HTW). There is important impact of the ethnic background but a lack of studied European populations for the association of the triglyceride/ high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C) ratio and insulin resistance. This observational, retrospective study evaluated lipid ratios and the HTW for predicting the metabolic syndrome/insulin resistance in 1932 non-diabetic individuals from Germany in the fasting state and during a glucose tolerance test. The relations of triglyceride/HDL-C, total-cholesterol/HDL-C, and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol/HDL-C with 5 surrogate estimates of insulin resistance/sensitivity and metabolic syndrome were analysed by linear regression analysis and receiver operating characteristics (ROC) in participants with normal (n = 1 333) or impaired fasting glucose (n = 599), also for the impact of gender. Within the lipid ratios, triglyceride/ HDL-C had the strongest associations with insulin resistance/ sensitivity markers. In the prediction of metabolic syndrome, diagnostic accuracy was good for triglyceride/HDL-C (area under the ROC curve 0.817) with optimal cut-off points (in mg/dl units) of 2.8 for men (80 % sensitivity, 71 % specificity) and 1.9 for women (80 % sensitivity, 75 % specificity) and fair for HTW and HOMA-IR (area under the curve 0.773 and 0.761). These data suggest the triglyceride/HDL-C ratio as a physiologically relevant and practical index for predicting the concomitant presence of metabolic syndrome, insulin resistance and dyslipidaemia for therapeutic and preventive care in apparently healthy European populations.