It has been increasingly recognised in recent years that type 2 (non-insulindependent) diabetes is part of a cluster of cardiovascular risk factors known as the metabolic syndrome, but also endorsed with such names as the deadly quartet, syndrome X and the insulin resistance syndrome. Atherosclerosis is the most common complication of type 2 diabetes among Europeans, and coronary artery, cerebrovascular and peripheral vascular disease are 2 to 5 times more common in people with this condition than in those without diabetes. These observations indicate that the treatment of type 2 diabetes requires agents that do more than simply lower blood glucose levels, and a therapy with both antihyperglycaemic effects and beneficial effects on dyslipidaemia, hypertension, obesity, hyperinsulinaemia and insulin resistance is likely to be most useful. In this respect, metformin has an important and established role: this drug has been shown to lower blood glucose and triglycéride levels, and to assist with weight reduction and to reduce hyperinsulinaemia and insulin resistance. Studies in the Israeli sand rat, Psammomys obesus, have indicated hyperinsulinaemia/insulin resistance to be the initial and underlying metabolic disorder in obesity and type 2 diabetes. Thus, the well established effect of metformin in reducing insulin resistance makes this drug an excellent candidate for the prevention of progression of impaired glucose tolerance to type 2 diabetes, and for the reduction of mortality associated with cardiovascular disease.