Obesity is a major risk factor for the development of the metabolic syndrome, a cluster of diseases including insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes, dyslipidemia, hypertension, microalbuminuria, atherosclerosis, and non-alcoholic steatohepatitis. On the other hand, it is now generally accepted that adipose tissue acts as an endocrine organ producing a number of substances with an important role in the regulation of food intake, energy expenditure and a series of metabolic processes. Adiponectin is a recently discovered hormone produced exclusively by adipocytes. In fact, adiponectin is considered currently as a major factor in obesity-related insulin resistance and atherosclerosis. This new hormone differs from other adipocytokines in that its production and concentrations are actually decreased in insulin resistant subjects. The aim of this review is to summarize the current knowledge about the chemistry and physiology of adiponectin and to discuss its implications in the pathophysiology and potential treatment of insulin resistance and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.