Obesity and the metabolic syndrome have both reached pandemic proportions. Together they have the potential to impact on the incidence and severity of cardiovascular pathologies, with grave implications for worldwide health care systems. The metabolic syndrome is characterized by visceral obesity, insulin resistance, hypertension, chronic inflammation, and thrombotic disorders contributing to endothelial dysfunction and, subsequently, to accelerated atherosclerosis. Obesity is a key component in development of the metabolic syndrome and it is becoming increasingly clear that a central factor in this is the production by adipose cells of bioactive substances that directly influence insulin sensitivity and vascular injury. In this paper, we review advances in the understanding of biologically active molecules collectively referred to as "adipokines" and how dysregulated production of these factors in obese states mediates the pathogenesis of obesity associated metabolic syndrome.