Lipotoxicity, overnutrition and energy metabolism in aging

Ageing Res Rev. 2006 May;5(2):144-64. doi: 10.1016/j.arr.2006.03.004. Epub 2006 Apr 21.


The safest place to store lipids is the white adipose tissue, but its storage capacity may become saturated resulting in excess of fat "overspilled" to non-adipose tissues. This overspill of fat occurs in apparently opposite pathological states such as lipodistrophy or obesity. When the excess of energy is redirected towards peripheral organs, their initial response is to facilitate the storage of the surplus in the form of triacylglycerol, but the limited triacylglycerol buffer capacity becomes saturated soon. Under these conditions excess of lipids enter alternative non-oxidative pathways that result in production of toxic reactive lipid species that induce organ-specific toxic responses leading to apoptosis. Reactive lipids can accumulate in non-adipose tissues of metabolically relevant organs such as pancreatic beta-cells, liver, heart and skeletal muscle leading to lipotoxicity, a process that contributes substantially to the pathophysiology of insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes, steatotic liver disease and heart failure. The effects of this lipotoxic insult can be minimised by several strategies: (a) decreased incorporation of energy, (b) a less orthodox approach such as increased adipose tissue expandability and/or (c) increased oxidation of fat in peripheral organs. Aging should be considered as physiological degenerative process potentially accelerated by concomitant lipotoxic insults. Conversely, the process of aging can sensitise cells to effects of lipid toxicity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adipose Tissue / metabolism
  • Adipose Tissue / physiopathology
  • Aging / metabolism
  • Aging / physiology*
  • Animals
  • Carbohydrate Metabolism / physiology
  • Energy Metabolism / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Leptin / physiology
  • Lipid Metabolism / physiology*
  • Models, Biological
  • Overnutrition / metabolism
  • Overnutrition / physiopathology*
  • Sterol Regulatory Element Binding Protein 1 / physiology


  • Leptin
  • Sterol Regulatory Element Binding Protein 1