The rapid decrease in infectious diseases globally has coincided with an increase in the prevalence of obesity and other components of metabolic syndrome. Insulin resistance is a common feature of metabolic syndrome and can be influenced by genetic and non-genetic/environmental factors. The emergence of metabolic syndrome epidemics over only a few decades suggests a more prominent role of the latter. Changes in our environment and lifestyle have indeed paralleled the rise in metabolic syndrome. Gastrointestinal tract microbiota, the composition of which plays a significant role in host physiology, including metabolism and energy homeostasis, are distinctly different within the context of metabolic syndrome. Among humans, recent lifestyle-related changes could be linked to changes in diversity and composition of ‘ancient’ microbiota. Given the co-adaptation and co-evolution of microbiota with the immune system over a long period of time, it is plausible that such lifestyle-related microbiota changes could trigger aberrant immune responses, thereby predisposing an individual to a variety of diseases. Here, we review current evidence supporting a role for gut microbiota in the ongoing rise of metabolic syndrome. We conclude that population-level shifts in microbiota can play a mediatory role between lifestyle factors and pathogenesis of insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome.