The current obesity and type 2 diabetes pandemics have causes beyond changes in eating and exercise habits against a susceptible genetic background. Gut bacteria seem to additionally contribute to the differences in body weight, fat distribution, insulin sensitivity and glucose- and lipid-metabolism. Data, mostly derived from preclinical studies, suggest that gut microbiota play an important role in conditions such as obesity, diabetes, metabolic syndrome and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. Regulation of energy uptake from the gut, by digesting otherwise indigestible common polysaccharides in our diet, production or activation of signalling molecules involved in host metabolism, modification of gut permeability, the release of gut hormones and inflammation, are among the mechanisms by which gut microbiota may influence the host cardiometabolic phenotype. Recent evidence suggests that quantitative and qualitative differences in gut microbiota exist between lean and obese, and between diabetic and non-diabetic individuals. Modification of the gut microbiota composition and/or its biochemical capacity by specific dietary or pharmacological interventions may favourably affect host metabolism. Large-scale intervention trials, investigating the potential benefit of prebiotics and probiotics in improving cardiometabolic health in high-risk populations, are eagerly awaited.