For many decades, adipose tissue was considered as an inactive body compartment that was only used as an energy store. During the recent years, an increasing amount of data has revealed that adipose tissue is a major endocrine and paracrine organ producing numerous enzymes, hormones and growth factors which are collectively termed as adipokines. Several experimental and clinical studies showed that adipokines modulate insulin sensitivity and have an influence on glucose/fat metabolism and obesity. Apart from these properties, recent research revealed several direct actions of adipokines on endothelial function, vascular homeostasis and atherogenesis which are independent of their effects on glucose and fat metabolism. The present review focuses on the direct effects of adipokines on vascular/endothelial function and atherosclerosis and summarizes the experimental and clinical data which suggest a role for these molecules as potential diagnostic and prognostic cardiovascular markers as well as potential therapeutic target to reduce cardiovascular risk.
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