The role of the intestinal microbiota and microbial metabolites in the maintenance of host health and development of metabolic disease has gained significant attention over the past decade. Mechanistic insight revealing causality, however, is scarce. Work by Ussar and co-workers demonstrates that a complex interaction between microbiota, host genetics and environmental factors is involved in metabolic disease development in mice. In addition, Perry and co-workers show that the microbial metabolite acetate augments insulin resistance in rats. These studies underscore an important role of the microbiota in the development of obesity and symptoms of type 2 diabetes in rodents. If causality can be demonstrated in humans, development of novel diagnostic and therapeutic tools that target the gut microbiota will have high potential.