In obesity, chronic inflammation is believed to induce insulin resistance and impairs adipose tissue function. Although this view is supported by a large body of literature, it has been challenged by growing evidence that pro-inflammatory cytokines may favor insulin sensitivity through induction of energy expenditure. In this review article, interleukin 15 (IL-15) is used as a new example to explain the beneficial effects of the pro-inflammatory cytokines. IL-15 is secreted by multiple types of cells including macrophages, neutrophils and skeletal muscle cells. IL-15 expression is induced in immune cells by endotoxin and in muscle cells by physical exercise. Its transcription is induced by transcription factor NF-κB. IL-15 binds to its receptor that contains three different subunits (α, β and γ) to activate JAK/STAT, PI3K/Akt, IKK/NF-κB and JNK/AP1 pathways in cells. In the regulation of metabolism, IL-15 reduces weight gain without inhibiting food intake in rodents. IL-15 suppresses lipogenesis, stimulates brown fat function, improves insulin sensitivity through weight loss and energy expenditure. In human, circulating IL-15 is negatively associated with body weight. In the immune system, IL-15 stimulates proliferation and differentiation of T cells, NK cells, monocytes and neutrophils. In the anti-obesity effects of IL-15, T cells and NK cells are not required, but leptin receptor is required. In summary, evidence from human and rodents supports that the pro-inflammatory cytokine IL-15 may enhance energy expenditure to protect the body from obesity and type 2 diabetes. The mechanism of IL-15 action remains to be fully uncovered in the regulation of energy expenditure.