The balance of contradictory signals experienced by preadipocytes influences whether these cells undergo adipogenesis. In addition to the endocrine system, these signals originate from the preadipocytes themselves or operate as part of a feedback loop involving mature adipocytes. The factors that regulate adipogenesis either promote or block the cascade of transcription factors that coordinate the differentiation process. Some of the positive factors reviewed include insulin-like growth factor I, macrophage colony-stimulating factor, fatty acids, prostaglandins and glucocorticoids, and negative factors reviewed include Wnt, transforming growth factor beta, inflammatory cytokines and prostaglandin F(2alpha). Tipping the scales towards or away from adipogenesis has profound implications for human health. In this review, we describe recent contributions to the field and will focus on factors that probably play a role in vivo.