Metabolic Flexibility in Health and Disease

Cell Metab. 2017 May 2;25(5):1027-1036. doi: 10.1016/j.cmet.2017.04.015.


Metabolic flexibility is the ability to respond or adapt to conditional changes in metabolic demand. This broad concept has been propagated to explain insulin resistance and mechanisms governing fuel selection between glucose and fatty acids, highlighting the metabolic inflexibility of obesity and type 2 diabetes. In parallel, contemporary exercise physiology research has helped to identify potential mechanisms underlying altered fuel metabolism in obesity and diabetes. Advances in "omics" technologies have further stimulated additional basic and clinical-translational research to further interrogate mechanisms for improved metabolic flexibility in skeletal muscle and adipose tissue with the goal of preventing and treating metabolic disease.

Keywords: adipose tissue; exercise; insulin resistance; metabolic flexibility; obesity; skeletal muscle; type 2 diabetes.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adipose Tissue / metabolism*
  • Animals
  • Caloric Restriction
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / metabolism*
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / therapy
  • Energy Metabolism
  • Exercise
  • Exercise Therapy
  • Fasting
  • Fatty Acids / metabolism
  • Glucose / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Insulin Resistance
  • Metabolic Networks and Pathways*
  • Metabolome
  • Metabolomics
  • Muscle, Skeletal / metabolism*
  • Obesity / metabolism*
  • Obesity / therapy
  • Rest


  • Fatty Acids
  • Glucose