Diabetes mellitus is a chronic disease that leads to complications including heart disease, stroke, kidney failure, blindness and nerve damage. Type 2 diabetes, characterized by target-tissue resistance to insulin, is epidemic in industrialized societies and is strongly associated with obesity; however, the mechanism by which increased adiposity causes insulin resistance is unclear. Here we show that adipocytes secrete a unique signalling molecule, which we have named resistin (for resistance to insulin). Circulating resistin levels are decreased by the anti-diabetic drug rosiglitazone, and increased in diet-induced and genetic forms of obesity. Administration of anti-resistin antibody improves blood sugar and insulin action in mice with diet-induced obesity. Moreover, treatment of normal mice with recombinant resistin impairs glucose tolerance and insulin action. Insulin-stimulated glucose uptake by adipocytes is enhanced by neutralization of resistin and is reduced by resistin treatment. Resistin is thus a hormone that potentially links obesity to diabetes.