Lifestyle changes such as physical inactivity combined with calorie-rich, low-fibre diets have triggered an explosive surge in metabolic syndrome, outlined as a cluster of heart attack risk factors such as insulin resistance, raised fasting plasma glucose, abdominal obesity, high cholesterol and high blood pressure. By acting as a master-switch of energy homeostasis and associated pathophysiological phenomena, 5-adenosine monophosphate-activated protein kinase (AMPK) appears to orchestrate the adaptive physiology of energy deficit, suggesting that the sedentary modern human could be suffering from chronic suboptimal AMPK activation. Addressing individual targets with potent ligands with high specificity may be inappropriate (it has not yielded any molecule superior to the sixty year old metformin) because this strategy cannot address a cluster of interrelated pathologies. However, spices, dietary supplements and nutraceuticals attenuate the multiple symptoms of metabolic syndrome in a collective and perhaps more holistic fashion with fewer adverse events. Natural selection could have favoured races that developed a taste for spices and dietary supplements, most of which are not only antioxidants but also activators of AMPK. The review will outline the various biochemical mechanisms and pathophysiological consequences of AMPK activation involving the cluster of symptoms that embrace metabolic syndrome and beyond. Recent advances that integrate energy homeostasis with a number of overarching metabolic pathways and physiological phenomena, including inflammatory conditions, cell growth and development, malignancy, life span, and even extending into environmental millieu, as in obesity mediated by gut microflora and others will also be outlined.
Keywords: Obesity, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, insulin resistance, adenosine monophosphate dependent kinase, abdominal obesity, energy deficit, antioxidants, physiological phenomena, life span, development malignancy, pathophysiological, heterotrimeric enzyme
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