Metabolic inflammation is a very topical area of research, wherein aberrations in metabolic and inflammatory pathways probably contribute to atherosclerosis, insulin resistance (IR) and type 2 diabetes. Metabolic insults arising from obesity promote inflammation, which in turn impedes insulin signalling and reverse cholesterol transport (RCT). Key cells in the process are metabolically activated macrophages, which up-regulate both pro- and anti-inflammatory pathways in response to lipid spillover from adipocytes. Peroxisome proliferator-activated receptors and AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK) are regulators of cellular homeostasis that influence both inflammatory and metabolic pathways. Dietary fats, such as saturated fatty acids (SFAs), can differentially modulate metabolic inflammation. Palmitic acid, in particular, is a well-characterized nutrient that promotes metabolic inflammation via the NLRP3 (the nod-like receptor containing a pyrin domain) inflammasome, which is partly attributable to AMPK inhibition. Conversely, some unsaturated fatty acids are less potent agonists of metabolic inflammation. For example, monounsaturated fatty acid does not reduce AMPK as potently as SFA and n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids actively resolve inflammation via resolvins and protectins. Nevertheless, the full extent to which nutritional state modulates metabolic inflammation requires greater clarification.

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