The objective of this paper is to evaluate adaptations in hepatic mitochondrial protein mass, function and efficiency in a rat model of high-fat diet-induced obesity and insulin resistance that displays several correlates to human obesity. Adult male rats were fed a high-fat diet for 7 weeks. Mitochondrial state 3 and state 4 respiratory capacities were measured in liver homogenate and isolated mitochondria by using nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide, flavin adenine dinucleotide and lipid substrates. Mitochondrial efficiency was evaluated by measuring proton leak kinetics. Mitochondrial mass was assessed by ultrastructural observations and citrate synthase (CS) activity measurements. Mitochondrial oxidative damage and antioxidant defence were also considered by measuring lipid peroxidation, aconitase and superoxide dismutase (SOD) specific activity. Whole body metabolic characteristics were obtained by measuring 24-h oxygen consumption (VO2), carbon dioxide production (VCO2), respiratory quotient (RQ) and nonprotein respiratory quotient (NPRQ), using indirect calorimetry with urinary nitrogen analysis. Whole body glucose homeostasis was assessed by measuring plasma insulin and glucose levels after a glucose load. Adult rats fed a high-fat diet for 7 weeks, exhibit not only obesity, insulin resistance and hepatic steatosis, but also reduced respiratory capacity and increased oxidative stress in liver mitochondria. Our present results indicate that alterations in the mitochondrial compartment induced by a high-fat diet are associated with the development of insulin resistance and ectopic fat storage in the liver. Our results thus fit in with the emerging idea that mitochondrial dysfunction can led to the development of metabolic diseases, such as obesity, type 2 diabetes mellitus and nonalcoholic steatohepatitis.