Synthetic peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor (PPAR) agonists are used to treat dyslipidemia and insulin resistance. In this study, we examined molecular mechanisms that explain differential effects of a PPARα agonist (fenofibrate) and a PPARγ agonist (rosiglitazone) on macrophages during obesity-induced atherogenesis. Twelve-week-old mice with combined leptin and LDL-receptor deficiency (DKO) were treated with fenofibrate, rosiglitazone or placebo for 12 weeks. Only rosiglitazone improved adipocyte function, restored insulin sensitivity, and inhibited atherosclerosis by decreasing lipid-loaded macrophages. In addition, it increased interleukin-1 receptor-associated kinase-3 (Irak3) and decreased monocyte chemoattractant protein-1 (Mcp1) expressions, indicative of a switch from M1 to M2 macrophages. The differences between fenofibrate and rosiglitazone were independent of Pparγ expression. In bone marrow-derived macrophages (BMDM), we identified the rosiglitazone-associated increase in adiponectin as cause of the increase in Irak3. Interestingly, the deletion of Irak3 in BMDM (IRAK3-/- BMDM) resulted in activation of the canonical NFκB signaling pathway and increased Mcp1 protein secretion. Rosiglitazone could not decrease the elevated Mcp1 secretion in IRAK3-/- BMDM directly and fenofibrate even increased the secretion, possibly due to increased mitochondrial reactive oxygen species production. Furthermore, aortic extracts of high-fat insulin-resistant LDL-receptor deficient mice, with lower adiponectin and Irak3 and higher Mcp1, showed accelerated atherosclerosis. In aggregate, our results emphasize an interaction between PPAR agonist-mediated increase in adiponectin and macrophage-associated Irak3 in the protection against atherosclerosis by PPAR agonists.