The latter half of the 20th century has witnessed rapid advances in medicine. Concurrently, secular trends in lifestyle practices in our increasingly sedentary society have led to burgeoning rates of obesity, metabolic syndrome, and type 2 diabetes. The number of Americans with type 2 diabetes more than doubled between 1980 and 2004 and the prevalence increases with age. Potential causes of this growing epidemic include changes in dietary patterns, physical inactivity, and obesity but may also include as yet unidentified genetic and environmental determinants. In this regard, experimental data provide evidence for a direct link between obesity and subclinical inflammation and support the concept that the metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes are, at least in part, inflammatory conditions. Furthermore, elevated levels of inflammatory biomarkers are not only associated with the development of future diabetes but cardiovascular disease as well. These findings suggest that subclinical inflammation may be a contributing factor not only to the etiology of these metabolic disorders but also their cardiovascular complications.