The initial identification of glucagon as a counter-regulatory hormone to insulin revealed this hormone to be of largely singular physiological and pharmacological purpose. Glucagon agonism, however, has also been shown to exert effects on lipid metabolism, energy balance, body adipose tissue mass and food intake. The ability of glucagon to stimulate energy expenditure, along with its hypolipidemic and satiating effects, in particular, make this hormone an attractive pharmaceutical agent for the treatment of dyslipidemia and obesity. Studies that describe novel preclinical applications of glucagon, alone and in concert with glucagon-like peptide 1 agonism, have revealed potential benefits of glucagon agonism in the treatment of the metabolic syndrome. Collectively, these observations challenge us to thoroughly investigate the physiology and therapeutic potential of insulin's long-known opponent. © 2010 Macmillan Publishers Limited. All rights reserved.