The rising prevalence of obesity is accompanied by an increasing number of patients with the metabolic complications of obesity. The major complications come under the heading of the metabolic syndrome. This syndrome is characterized by plasma lipid disorders (atherogenic dyslipidemia), raised blood pressure, elevated plasma glucose, and a prothrombotic state. The clinical consequences of the metabolic syndrome are coronary heart disease and stroke, type 2 diabetes and its complications, fatty liver, cholesterol gallstones, and possibly some forms of cancer. At the heart of the metabolic syndrome is insulin resistance, which represents a generalized derangement in metabolic processes. Obesity is the predominant factor leading to insulin resistance, although other factors play a role. The mechanistic link between insulin resistance and the metabolic syndrome is complex. The relationship is modulated by yet other factors, such as physical activity, body fat distribution, hormones, and a person's genetic polymorphic architecture. A better understanding of the molecular basis of this relationship is needed to suggest new targets for prevention and treatment of the complications of obesity. In addition, understanding at the clinical level will lead to improved management of these complications.