Different dietary interventions have been identified as potential modifiers of adiponectin concentrations, and they may be influenced by lipid intake. We identified studies investigating the effect of dietary lipids (type/amount) on adiponectin concentrations in a systematic review with meta-analysis. A literature search was conducted until July 2013 using databases such as Medline, Embase and Scopus (MeSH terms: ‘adiponectin’, ‘dietary lipid’, ‘randomized controlled trials (RCT)’). Inclusion criteria were RCT in adults analysing adiponectin concentrations with modification of dietary lipids. Among the 4930 studies retrieved, fifty-three fulfilled the inclusion criteria and were grouped as follows: (1) total dietary lipid intake; (2) dietary/supplementary n-3 PUFA; (3) conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) supplementation; (4) other dietary lipid interventions. Diets with a low fat content in comparison to diets with a high-fat content were not associated with positive changes in adiponectin concentrations (twelve studies; pooled estimate of the difference in means: − 0·04 (95 % CI − 0·82, 0·74) μg/ml). A modest increase in adiponectin concentrations with n-3 PUFA supplementation was observed (thirteen studies; 0·27 (95 % CI 0·07, 0·47) μg/ml). Publication bias was found by using Egger's test (P= 0·01) and funnel plot asymmetry. In contrast, CLA supplementation reduced the circulating concentrations of adiponectin compared with unsaturated fat supplementation (seven studies; − 0·74 (95 % CI − 1·38, − 0·10) μg/ml). However, important sources of heterogeneity were found as revealed by the meta-regression analyses of both n-3 PUFA and CLA supplementation. Results of new RCT would be necessary to confirm these findings.