Obesity, particularly abdominal adiposity, is increasingly recognized as a cause of elevated cardiometabolic risk-the risk of developing type 2 diabetes mellitus (DM) and cardiovascular disease (CVD). The predominate mechanisms appear to involve the promotion of insulin resistance, driven largely by excess free fatty acids secreted by an expanded adipose tissue mass, and the development of an inflammatory milieu due to increased secretion of inflammatory cytokines and adipokines from adipose tissue. Key proinflammatory cytokines secreted by adipocytes include tumor necrosis factor-α, interleukin-6, leptin, resistin, and plasminogen activator inhibitor-1. All have been variously associated with hyperinsulemia, hyperglycemia, insulin resistance, diabetes, and endothelial dysfunction, as well as plaque development, progression, and rupture. Adiponectin, another important adipocyte, has protective cardiometabolic actions; however, adiponectin levels decline with increasing obesity. Understanding the role of obesity in the pathogenesis of cardiometabolic risk is crucial for the development of treatment strategies that will provide maximum benefit for patients with, or at risk for, type 2 DM and CVD.
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