Type 2 diabetes is the most common metabolic disorder today and has reached epidemic proportions in many countries. Insulin resistance and inflammation play a central role in the pathogenesis of type 2 diabetes and are present long before the onset of the disease. During this time, many of the complications associated with type 2 diabetes are initiated. Of major concern is the two- to fourfold increase in cardiovascular morbidity and mortality in this group compared to a nondiabetic population. Obesity, characterized by enlarged fat cells, and insulin resistance are, like type 2 diabetes, associated with impaired adipogenesis and a low-grade chronic inflammation that to a large extent emanates from the adipose tissue. Both these processes contribute to unfavourable alterations of the circulating levels of several bioactive molecules (adipokines) that are secreted from the adipose tissue, many of which have documented inhibitory effects on insulin sensitivity in the liver and peripheral tissues and, in addition, have negative effects on the cardiovascular system.
Here we review current knowledge of the adipose tissue as an endocrine organ, the local and systemic effects of a chronic state of low-grade inflammation residing in the adipose tissue, and, in particular, the effects of inflammation and circulating adipokines on the vascular wall. Copyright © 2008 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.