Nineteen obese patients with Type 2 diabetes mellitus were treated for periods of 3 months with placebo, guar gum (5 g three times daily) and metformin (500 mg three times daily) in a randomized double-blind, double-placebo, cross-over study. Both active agents decreased fasting blood glucose from 11.4 +/- 3.7 mmol l-1 (mean +/- SD) to 8.6 +/- 2.8 mmol l-1 on metformin (p less than 0.001) and to 9.5 +/- 3.9 mmol l-1 on guar gum (p less than 0.01). Metformin significantly reduced the very low density lipoprotein (VLDL) cholesterol concentration from 0.62 (+0.73, -0.34) mmol l-1 (geometric mean (+SD, -SD)) to 0.43 (+0.58, -0.25) mmol l-1, (p less than 0.02), but unless hyperlipidaemia was present there were no changes in other serum lipid or lipoprotein levels. In patients with serum cholesterol greater than 6.5 mmol l-1 decreases in serum triglycerides from 3.29 (+3.27, -1.64) to 2.46 (+2.55, -1.25) mmol l-1 (p less than 0.02) occurred with metformin. In these patients guar gum produced a reduction in serum cholesterol (from 7.70 +/- 0.90 to 6.41 +/- 1.11 mmol l-1, p less than 0.01) due to an effect on low density lipoproteins. These differential effects may be important in planning therapy when hyperlipidaemia accompanies Type 2 diabetes.