Insulin resistance is a principal underlying defect in type 2 DM along with beta-cell dysfunction, and this insulin resistance underpins many of the abnormalities associated with the metabolic syndrome. Peroxisome-proliferator-activated receptor gamma agonists (PPARgamma agonists), also known as glitazones or thiazolidinediones (TZDs) are powerful insulin sensitisers with recent evidence suggesting that they also have a potential to improve pancreatic beta-cell function. TZDs cause a major redistribution of body fat with a decrease in visceral and hepatic fat content with a resultant increase in insulin sensitivity. The glucose lowering effects of TZDs are similar to those seen with the well-established sulphonylureas and metformin. TZDs have a small reducing effect on blood pressure and have been shown to reduce microalbuminuria independent of their blood glucose lowering effect. Both TZDs in clinical practice, pioglitazone and rosiglitazone, reduce small dense LDL-cholesterol and increase HDL-cholesterol levels but pioglitazone would appear to have a more pronounced benefit on these two parameters with a greater reduction in plasma triglycerides. TZDs improved the pro-coagulant state and show benefits in improving endothelial dysfunction and reducing 'non-traditional' inflammatory cytokines and increasing adiponectin levels. The greatest benefit for the TZDs is to directly influence atherogenesis itself and the potential that these so-called pleiotrophic effects of TZDs to reduce cardiovascular events in type 2 DM will be tested when the results of outcome trials are published in the next few years. If the results are positive for the reduction in vascular end-points, then TZDs will represent a major advance in improving the prognosis of type 2 DM subjects with the metabolic syndrome.