Dichloroacetate (DCA) represents a potentially novel class of oral antidiabetic agents that reduce blood glucose and lipids without stimulating insulin secretion. DCA reduces blood glucose by inhibiting hepatic glucose synthesis and stimulating glucose clearance and use by peripheral tissues. A major site of action of the drug is pyruvate dehydrogenase (PDH), the rate-limiting enzyme of aerobic glucose oxidation. Stimulation of PDH by DCA increases peripheral oxidation of alanine and lactate, thereby interrupting the Cori and alanine cycles and reducing the availability of three-carbon precursors for gluconeogenesis. In experimental models of ketosis, DCA reduces ketonemia and ketonuria while significantly lowering blood glucose. DCA inhibits hepatic triglyceride and cholesterol biosynthesis. Short-term studies in patients with non-insulin-dependent diabetes have demonstrated a capacity of the drug to markedly reduce circulating a very-low-density lipoprotein cholesterol and triglyceride concentrations. In genetic models of insulin-dependent diabetes, oral administration of DCA significantly reduces insulin requirements and blood levels of glucose and triglycerides. Several derivatives of DCA have been synthesized and found to have biological activity in animals. Further work is required to determine whether DCA and its analogues may be safe and effective agents for chronic treatment of the carbohydrate and lipid abnormalities of human diabetes.