The MS (metabolic syndrome) is a cluster of clinical and biochemical abnormalities characterized by central obesity, dyslipidaemia [hypertriglyceridaemia and decreased HDL-C (high-density lipoprotein cholesterol)], glucose intolerance and hypertension. Insulin resistance, hyperleptinaemia and low plasma levels of adiponectin are also widely related to features of the MS. This review focuses on lipid metabolism alterations associated with the MS, paying special attention to changes in plasma lipids and cellular fatty acid oxidation. Lipid metabolism alterations in liver and peripheral tissues are addressed, with particular reference to adipose and muscle tissues, and the mechanisms by which some adipokines, namely leptin and adiponectin, mediate the regulation of fatty acid oxidation in those tissues. Activation of the AMPK (AMP-dependent kinase) pathway, together with a subsequent increase in fatty acid oxidation, appear to constitute the main mechanism of action of these hormones in the regulation of lipid metabolism. Decreased activation of AMPK appears to have a role in the development of features of the MS. In addition, alteration of AMPK signalling in the hypothalamus, which may function as a sensor of nutrient availability, integrating multiple nutritional and hormonal signals, may have a key role in the appearance of the MS.

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