The aim of our study was to determine whether adipocyte-derived hormones leptin, adiponectin and resistin contribute to the improvement of insulin sensitivity after very-low calorie diet (VLCD). Therefore, serum levels of these hormones were measured in fourteen obese females before and after three weeks VLCD and in seventeen age- and sex-matched healthy controls. Body mass index, HOMA index, serum insulin and leptin levels in obese women before VLCD were significantly higher than in control group (BMI 48.01+/-2.02 vs. 21.38+/-0.42 kg/m(2), HOMA 10.72+/-2.03 vs. 4.69+/-0.42, insulin 38.63+/-5.10 vs. 18.76+/-1.90 microIU/ml, leptin 77.87+/-8.98 vs. 8.82+/-1.52 ng/ml). In contrast, serum adiponectin and soluble leptin receptors levels were significantly lower in obese women before VLCD than in the control group. No differences were found in serum glucose and resistin levels between the obese group before VLCD and the control group. VLCD significantly decreased BMI, HOMA index, serum glucose, insulin and leptin levels and increased soluble leptin receptor levels. The changes in serum adiponectin and resistin levels in obese women after VLCD did not reach statistical significance. We conclude that leptin and soluble leptin receptor levels were affected by VLCD while adiponectin and resistin concentrations were not. Therefore, other mechanisms rather than changes in the endocrine function of the adipose tissue are probably involved in the VLCD-induced improvement of insulin sensitivity.