Adiponectin is an adipocyte hormone that links visceral adiposity with insulin resistance and atherosclerosis. It is unique among adipocyte-derived hormones in that its circulating concentrations are inversely proportional to adiposity, and low adiponectin concentrations predict the development of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Consequently, in the decade since its discovery, adiponectin has generated immense interest as a potential therapeutic target for the metabolic syndrome and diabetes. This review summarizes current research regarding the regulation of circulating adiponectin concentrations by physiological, pharmacological, and nutritional factors, with an emphasis on human studies. In humans, plasma adiponectin concentrations are influenced by age and gender, and are inversely proportional to visceral adiposity. In vitro studies suggest that adiponectin production may be determined primarily by adipocyte size and insulin sensitivity, with larger, insulin-resistant adipocytes producing less adiponectin. While adiponectin concentrations are unchanged after meal ingestion, they are increased by significant weight loss, such as after bariatric surgery. In addition, adiponectin production is inhibited by a number of hormones, including testosterone, prolactin, glucocorticoids and growth hormone, and by inflammation and oxidative stress in adipose tissue. Smoking decreases, while moderate alcohol consumption increases, circulating adiponectin concentrations. Dietary fatty acid composition in rodents influences adiponectin production via ligand-activated nuclear receptors (PPARs); however, current evidence in humans is equivocal. In addition to PPAR agonists (such as thiazolidinediones and fibrates), a number of pharmacological agents (angiotensin receptor type 1 blockers, ACE inhibitors, and cannabinoid receptor antagonists) used in treatment of the metabolic syndrome also increase adiponectin concentrations in humans.