The importance of adipose tissue in health as well as disease has been demonstrated in several studies recently, and it has become appropriate to use the term ‘adipose organ’ when referring to adipose tissue as a whole. The obesity epidemic, with a marked increase in the incidence of the metabolic syndrome leading to diabetes type 2 as well as cardiovascular complications, has stimulated considerable interest in adipose tissue biology. Moreover, several studies in different species have shown that limited energy intake is associated with less inflammation, improved biomarkers of health and a marked increase in longevity. In addition, there is convincing evidence that an optimal amount of adipose tissue is essential for many body functions such as immune response, reproduction and bone quality. Some nutrients and their metabolites are important as energy sources as well as ligands for many transcription factors expressed in adipose tissue, including all energy-providing nutrients both directly and indirectly as well as cholesterol, vitamin E and vitamin D. In particular, fatty acids can be effectively taken up by adipocytes and they can interact with several transcription factors crucial for growth, development and metabolic response, e.g. PPARα, −δ and −γ, sterol regulatory element-binding proteins1 and 2 and liver X receptors α and β). Moreover, glucose is also readily taken up and stored as fatty acids via lipogenesis in adipocytes. It is known that some metabolic signals released as proteins from adipose tissue (adipokines) are important for normal as well as pathological responses to the amount of energy stored in the adipose organ. The future challenge will be to understand the function of adipose tissue in energy homeostasis and the interplay with nutrients in order to be able to give optimal advice for the prevention and treatment of obesity.