Type 2 diabetes is a heterogeneous disorder due to prevalent insulin resistance associated with deficient insulin secretion or to a prevalent defect of insulin secretion associated with impaired insulin action. The definition is supported by the high frequency at which insulin resistance can be demonstrated in type 2 diabetic patients. Nonetheless, insulin resistance is not a sufficient mechanism to cause diabetes. Impaired beta-cell function is a necessary defect in all conditions of impaired glucose regulation; however, it manifests itself in a different manner in fasting and glucose-stimulated conditions. In the fasting state, the basal insulin secretory rate increases as a function of the progressive decline in insulin action. As such, the fasting plasma insulin concentration is often taken as a marker for insulin sensitivity. After glucose challenge, a specific alteration of acute insulin release is an early and progressive defect. The latter might represent an intrinsic defect, but its continuous decline is affected by glucotoxicity and lipotoxicity. To understand the impact of beta-cell dysfunction in type 2 diabetes on metabolic homeostasis, it is useful to consider the different phases of insulin secretion separately. Insulin secretion can be divided into basal (postabsorptive) and stimulated (postprandial) states. The former prevails during the interprandial phases and plays a major role during the overnight fast; the latter regulates glucose metabolism when carbohydrate is abundant and must be disposed of. Data in animals and humans support a crucial physiological role of first-phase insulin secretion in postprandial glucose homeostasis. This effect is primarily achieved in the liver, allowing prompt inhibition of endogenous glucose production and limiting the postprandial rise in plasma glucose level. In type 2 diabetes, loss of the early surge of insulin release is an early and quite common defect that may have a pathogenetic role in the development of postprandial hyperglycemia, possibly requiring specific therapeutic intervention.