The metabolic syndrome, a cluster of metabolic disorders often associated with visceral obesity, increases cardiovascular mortality and morbidity. As the body's largest endocrine organ, adipose tissue not only stores excess body energy, but also secretes a variety of bioactive adipocytokines. Obese patients, particularly those with visceral fat accumulation, have reduced plasma levels of adiponectin, the most abundant and adipose-specific adipocytokine. Although the association of adiponectin with several diseases remains controversial, many clinical studies have demonstrated that low plasma concentrations of adiponectin (hypoadiponectinaemia) associate closely with obesity-related diseases, including atherosclerotic cardiovascular diseases, Type II diabetes mellitus, hypertension and dyslipidaemia. Accumulating experimental evidence indicates that adiponectin possesses anti-atherogenic, anti-inflammatory and anti-diabetic properties and may also participate importantly in the mechanism of metabolic syndrome and other diseases. Despite these associations, further clinical and experimental investigations will be needed to illuminate the in vivo pathophysiological significance of this protein. Although evaluation of adiponectin as a novel therapy will ultimately require clinical intervention studies, this mediator may represent a novel target for the prevention and treatment of visceral obesity metabolic syndrome.