When Australian Aborigines make the transition from their traditional hunter-gatherer life-style to a westernized life-style, they develop high prevalence rates of obesity (with an android pattern of fat distribution), non-insulin-dependent diabetes, impaired glucose tolerance, hypertriglyceridemia, hypertension, and hyperinsulinemia. Insulin resistance may be the common pathogenetic characteristic of this cluster of conditions associated with increased risk of cardiovascular disease. The traditional hunter-gatherer life-style, characterized by high physical activity and a diet of low energy density (low, fat, high fiber), promoted the maintenance of a very lean body weight and minimized insulin resistance. In contrast, for most Aborigines, western life-style is characterized by reduced physical activity and an energy-dense diet (high in refined carbohydrate and fat) that promotes obesity and maximizes insulin resistance. Intervention strategies aimed at prevention of insulin-resistance-related chronic disease should be directed at life-style modification. To be effective, such programs will have to be developed and controlled by Aboriginal communities.