OBJECTIVES: To investigate the relationship between the angiotensin I-converting enzyme 1 (ACE) I/D polymorphism and adiposity-related phenotypes in a large cohort of toddlers and preschoolers. METHODS: Body composition measurements and DNA samples were obtained from 2102 Greek children aged 1-6 years, as part of a large-scale epidemiological study (GENESIS). All children were genotyped for the ACE I/D polymorphism and gender- and age-stratified statistical analyses were performed. RESULTS: In girls aged 4-6 years, the D-allele was associated with higher measurements of body mass index (BMI) (P=0.018), waist (P=0.001) and upper arm (P=0.013) circumferences, genotype accounting for 2.5, 4 and 3% of the phenotypic variance, respectively. In boys, the D-allele showed strong associations with lower BMI (P=0.001) at the age of 1-2 years that explained 17% of the phenotypic variance and with larger suprailiac skinfold (P=0.008) at 3-4 years old that explained 2% of the variance. No other significant associations between the ACE I/D polymorphism and adiposity-related phenotypes were found. In girls, the age at which significant associations were revealed coincided with the age at which BMI was observed to increase after its developmental nadir, but this feature of the association was not observed in boys. CONCLUSIONS: The ACE I/D polymorphism is associated with developmental and physiological changes in adiposity-related traits during early childhood in a gender- and age-specific manner.