Nitric oxide (NO) is synthesized from L-arginine by NO synthase in virtually all cell types. Emerging evidence shows that NO regulates the metabolism of glucose, fatty acids and amino acids in mammals. As an oxidant, pathological levels of NO inhibit nearly all enzyme-catalyzed reactions through protein oxidation. However, as a signaling molecule, physiological levels of NO stimulate glucose uptake as well as glucose and fatty acid oxidation in skeletal muscle, heart, liver and adipose tissue; inhibit the synthesis of glucose, glycogen, and fat in target tissues (e.g., liver and adipose); and enhance lipolysis in adipocytes. Thus, an inhibition of NO synthesis causes hyperlipidemia and fat accretion in rats, whereas dietary arginine supplementation reduces fat mass in diabetic fatty rats. The putative underlying mechanisms may involve multiple cyclic guanosine-3',5'-monophosphate-dependent pathways. First, NO stimulates the phosphorylation of adenosine-3',5'-monophosphate-activated protein kinase, resulting in (1) a decreased level of malonyl-CoA via inhibition of acetyl-CoA carboxylase and activation of malonyl-CoA decarboxylase and (2) a decreased expression of genes related to lipogenesis and gluconeogenesis (glycerol-3-phosphate acyltransferase, sterol regulatory element binding protein-1c and phosphoenolpyruvate carboxykinase). Second, NO increases the phosphorylation of hormone-sensitive lipase and perilipins, leading to the translocation of the lipase to the neutral lipid droplets and, hence, the stimulation of lipolysis. Third, NO activates expression of peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor-gamma coactivator-1alpha, thereby enhancing mitochondrial biogenesis and oxidative phosphorylation. Fourth, NO increases blood flow to insulin-sensitive tissues, promoting substrate uptake and product removal via the circulation. Modulation of the arginine-NO pathway through dietary supplementation with L-arginine or L-citrulline may aid in the prevention and treatment of the metabolic syndrome in obese humans and companion animals, and in reducing unfavorable fat mass in animals of agricultural importance.