The fact that cardiovascular risk factors cluster among individuals with the insulin resistance syndrome strongly suggests a common pathogenetic denominator. For many years, abnormalities of nonesterified fatty acid metabolism have been implicated in the disturbances of carbohydrate and lipid metabolism that characterize the cluster. However, until more recently, evidence implicating fatty acids in the hemodynamic and vascular abnormalities that affect patients with this syndrome was lacking. Observations from epidemiological, clinical, and basic science suggest that fatty acids can raise blood pressure and contribute to the development of hypertension. The effects of fatty acids on blood pressure may be mediated in part by inhibition of endothelial nitric oxide synthase activity and endothelium-dependent vasodilation. Fatty acids can also increase alpha1-adrenoceptor-mediated vascular reactivity and induce vascular smooth muscle migration and proliferation. The adverse effects of fatty acids appear to be mediated in part through induction of oxidative stress. Fatty acids interact with other components of the risk factor cluster, including increased angiotensin II, to synergistically augment oxidative stress in cultured vascular smooth muscle cells. Oxidative stress is implicated in the pathogenesis of insulin resistance, hypertension, vascular remodeling, and vascular complications. A clearer definition of the specific reactive oxygen signaling pathways involved and interventions aimed at altering these pathways could lead to more rationale antioxidant therapy and improved outcomes.