Obesity, type 2 diabetes, and other metabolic disorders have a large impact on global health, especially in Western countries. An important hallmark of metabolic disorders is chronic low-grade inflammation. A key player in chronic low-grade inflammation is dysmetabolism, which is defined as the inability to keep homeostasis resulting in loss of lipid control, oxidative stress, inflammation, and insulin resistance. Although often not yet detectable in the circulation, chronic low-grade inflammation can be present in one or multiple organs. The response to a metabolic challenge containing lipids may magnify dysfunctionalities at the tissue level, causing an overflow of inflammatory markers into the circulation and hence allow detection of early low-grade inflammation. Here, we summarize the evidence of successful application of metabolic challenge tests in type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, obesity, and unhealthy aging. We also review how metabolic challenge tests have been successfully applied to evaluate nutritional intervention effects, including an "anti-inflammatory" mixture, dark chocolate, whole grain wheat and overfeeding. Additionally, we elaborate on future strategies to (re)gain inflammatory flexibility. Through epigenetic and metabolic regulation, the inflammatory response may be trained by regular mild and metabolic triggers, which can be understood from the perspective of trained immunity, hormesis and pro-resolution. New strategies to optimize dynamics of inflammation may become available.
Keywords: chronic low-grade inflammation; lifestyle; metabolism; nutrition; phenotypic flexibility; resilience.