There are controversies regarding the association of visfatin with overweight/obesity, type 2 diabetes mellitus, insulin resistance (IR), metabolic syndrome and cardiovascular disease in published articles. A meta-analysis was performed to identify the significance of visfatin in these diseases. We searched for relevant articles in Pubmed, Scopus and SCIE. A total of 1035 articles were surveyed and 46 articles were identified, with 14 reports reporting more than one of our investigated diseases. A total of 13 (n = 644), 19 (n = 2405), 20 (n = 2249), 5 (n = 527) and 5 (n = 851) articles/(participants) were included in each meta-analysis regarding the association of visfatin and overweight/obesity, type 2 diabetes mellitus, insulin resistance, metabolic syndrome and cardiovascular diseases, respectively. Plasma visfatin concentrations were increased in participants diagnosed with overweight/obesity, type 2 diabetes mellitus, metabolic syndrome and cardiovascular diseases, with pooled log odds ratios of 1.164 [95% confidence interval (CI): 0.348 to 1.981, p = 0.005], 1.981 (95% CI: 1.377 to 2.584, p < 0.001), 1.094 (95% CI: 0.678 to 1.511, p < 0.001), and 2.902 (95% CI: 0.924 to 4.879, p < 0.005), respectively. The circulating visfatin level was positively associated with insulin resistance, with a Fisher's z of 0.089 (95% CI: 0.013 to 0.165, p = 0.022). No single study was found to affect the overall result of each analysis by sensitivity testing. No publication bias was found by the Egger test. Our study suggests that the use of visfatin may be promising for predicting obesity, diabetes status, insulin resistance, metabolic syndrome and cardiovascular disease. Copyright © 2011 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.