Background/aims: To investigate ethnic differences in retinal vascular function and their relationship to traditional risk indicators for cardiovascular disease (CVD). Methods: A total of 90 normoglycaemic subjects (45 South Asian (SA) and 45 age- and gender-matched white Europeans (WEs)) were recruited for the present study. Retinal vessel reactivity to flickering light was assessed by means of the dynamic retinal vessel analyser according to a modified protocol. Fasting plasma glucose, triglycerides (TG), total, LDL and HDL cholesterol were also measured in all individuals. Results: SA individuals showed higher fasting triglyceride (p=0.001) and lower HDL levels (p=0.007), leading to a higher TG:HDL-C ratio (p=0.001) than age-matched WE subjects. Additionally, in SAs, the retinal arterial reaction time in response to flicker stimulation was significantly longer in the last flicker cycle than in the WEs (p=0.039), and this change correlated positively with measured plasma TG levels (r=0.60; p=0.01). No such relationship was observed in the WEs (p>0.05). Conclusion: Even in the absence of overt vascular disease, in otherwise healthy SAs there are potential signs of retinal vascular function impairment that correlates with established plasma markers for CVD risk.