The metabolic effects of obesity have made this highly prevalent disease one of the most common risk factors for diabetes, hypertension, and atherosclerosis, the leading causes of end-stage renal failure. However, obesity per se, as defined by body mass index, is less predictive of the development of these diseases than is the presence of a constellation of obesity-related abnormalities now known as the metabolic syndrome. Recognition of this syndrome, which can readily be identified in clinical settings using defined threshold values for waist circumference, BP, fasting glucose, and dyslipidemia, allows for earlier intervention in these high-risk patients. Systemic insulin resistance has been implicated as one possible factor that links visceral obesity to adverse metabolic consequences; however, the mechanism whereby adipose tissue causes alterations in insulin sensitivity remains unclear. Infection and inflammation are commonly associated with insulin resistance, and visceral obesity is associated with a chronic, low-grade inflammatory state, suggesting that inflammation may be a potential mechanism whereby obesity leads to insulin resistance. Moreover, adipose tissue is now recognized as an immune organ that secretes numerous immunomodulatory factors and seems to be a significant source of inflammatory signals known to cause insulin resistance. Therefore, inflammation within white adipose tissue may be a crucial step contributing to the emergence of many of the pathologic features that characterize the metabolic syndrome and result in diabetes and atherosclerosis. This review describes the role of proinflammatory cytokines and hormones released by adipose tissue in generating the chronic inflammatory profile associated with visceral obesity.