Beta-cell failure coupled with insulin resistance is a key factor in the development of type 2 diabetes. Changes in circulating levels of adipokines, factors released from adipose tissue, form a significant link between excessive adiposity in obesity and both aforementioned factors. In this review we consider the published evidence for the role of individual adipokines on the function, proliferation, death and failure of beta-cells, focusing on those reported to have the most significant effects (leptin, adiponectin, TNFa, resistin, visfatin, DPP-IV and apelin). It is apparent that some adipokines have beneficial effects whereas others have detrimental properties; the overall contribution to beta-cell failure of changed concentrations of adipokines in the blood of obese pre-diabetic subjects will be highly dependent on the balance between these effects and the interactions between the adipokines which act on the beta-cell via a number of intersecting intracellular signalling pathways. We emphasise the importance, and comparative dearth, of studies into the combined effects of adipokines on beta-cells.