Metabolic syndrome is a collection of cardiometabolic risk factors that includes obesity, insulin resistance, hypertension and dyslipidemia. Although there has been significant debate regarding the criteria and concept of the syndrome, this clustering of risk factors is unequivocally linked to an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Metabolic syndrome is often characterized by oxidative stress, a condition in which an imbalance results between the production and inactivation of reactive oxygen species. Reactive oxygen species can best be described as double-edged swords; while they play an essential role in multiple physiological systems, under conditions of oxidative stress, they contribute to cellular dysfunction. Oxidative stress is thought to play a major role in the pathogenesis of a variety of human diseases, including atherosclerosis, diabetes, hypertension, aging, Alzheimer's disease, kidney disease and cancer. The purpose of this review is to discuss the role of oxidative stress in metabolic syndrome and its major clinical manifestations (namely coronary artery disease, hypertension and diabetes). It will also highlight the effects of lifestyle modification in ameliorating oxidative stress in metabolic syndrome. Discussion will be limited to human data.