Type 2 diabetes mellitus, a global epidemic, is largely attributed to metabolic syndrome and its clustering of cardiovascular risk factors including abdominal obesity, dyslipidemia, hypertension and hyperglycemia.

The two primary approaches to optimally control risk factors associated with metabolic syndrome are lifestyle changes and medications. Although many pharmacological targets have been identified, clinical management of cardiovascular risk factors associated with metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes is still dismal.

Recent evidence suggests premises of the peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor (PPAR) ligands in the combat against type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome including obesity and insulin resistance.

Three subtypes of the PPAR nuclear fatty acid receptors have been identified: alpha, beta/delta and gamma. PPARalpha is believed to participate in fatty acid uptake (beta- and omega-oxidation) mainly in the liver and heart. PPARbeta/delta is involved in fatty acid oxidation in muscle. PPARgamma is highly expressed in fat to facilitate glucose and lipid uptake, stimulate glucose oxidation, decrease free fatty acid level and ameliorate insulin resistance.

Synthetic ligands for PPARalpha and gamma such as fibric acid and thiazolidinediones have been used in patients with type 2 diabetes and pre-diabetic insulin resistance with significantly improved HbA(1c) and glucose levels. In addition, nonhypoglycemic effects may be elicited by PPAR agonists or dual agonists including improved lipid metabolism, blood pressure control and endothelial function, as well as suppressed atherosclerotic plaque formation and coagulation.

However, issues of safety and clinical indication remain undetermined for use of PPAR agonists for the incidence of heart disease in metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes.