With the growing prevalence of obesity, scientific interest in the biology of adipose tissue has been extended to the secretory products of adipocytes, since they are increasingly shown to affect several aspects in the pathogenesis of obesity-related diseases. The cloning of the ob gene is consistent with this concept and suggests that body fat content in adult rodents is regulated by a negative feedback loop centred in the hypothalamus. In recent years, a number of additional signalling molecules secreted by adipose tissue have been discovered, commonly referred to as 'adipocytokines'. Among these, adiponectin is perhaps the most interesting and promising compound for the clinician since it has profound protective actions in the pathogenesis of diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Adiponectin is low in obese subjects and, in particular, insulin-resistant patients. In contrast, resistin seems to be of greater relevance in relation to the immune stress response than in the regulation of glucose homeostasis. However, inflammatory processes have recently been connected with the development of atherosclerosis. Finally, little is known regarding the clinical relevance of visfatin. Recent research has revealed many functions of adipocytokines extending far beyond metabolism, such as immunity, cancer and bone formation. This report aims to review some of the recent topics of adipocytokine research that may be of particular importance.