Peroxisome proliferator-activated receptors (PPAR) were discovered in 1990, ending 25 years of uncertainty about the molecular mechanisms of peroxisome proliferation. Subsequently, PPARs have improved our understanding of adipocyte differentiation. But there is more to PPARs than solving a puzzle about an organelle (the peroxisome) long considered an oddity, and their medical significance goes beyond obesity too. Enhanced PPAR type alpha expression protects against cardiovascular disorders though the role of enhanced PPARgamma expression seems less favourable. PPAR mechanisms, mainly via induction of more differentiated cell phenotypes, protect against some cancers. The differentiation of many cell types (hepatocyte, fibroblast, adipocyte, keratinocyte, myocyte, and monocyte/macrophage) involves PPARs, and these nuclear receptors are now attracting the attention of many medical specialties and the pharmaceutical industry.