It is well established that peripheral insulin sensitivity is a critical factor in the aetiology of non-insulin dependent (Type 2) diabetes mellitus (NIDDM). Insulin resistance may also play a role at various stages in the natural history of insulin dependent (Type 1) diabetes (IDDM) and this was the topic of a workshop held in London on Friday 14 July 1995. The mechanisms of insulin resistance in IDDM are ill-defined but probably include 'glucose toxicity'. In the pre-diabetic period, insulin resistance may affect rates of progression to frank hyperglycaemia. Following the clinical onset of IDDM, insulin resistance could influence the length of the 'honeymoon period', diabetic control and patterns of growth during puberty, insulin requirements and blood glucose control at any time, the birth weight of infants born to diabetic mothers, and, through an effect on lipid metabolism and hypertension, ultimately contribute to the excess mortality associated with IDDM. In NIDDM, insulin resistance could influence rates of progression to insulin dependence. Treatment using insulin enhancers in NIDDM patients with autoimmune changes might delay or arrest their usual high-risk of progression to insulin dependence. As it is likely that insulin resistance has a wide-ranging influence on the natural history of diabetes in IDDM patients we suggest that treatment with insulin enhancers may prove beneficial in selected patients.