Researchers using animals are beginning to elucidate the control of fatty acid metabolism in muscle at the molecular and enzymatic level. This review examines the physiological data that has been collected from human subjects in the context of the proposed control mechanisms. A number of factors, including the availability of free fatty acids and the abundance of fatty acid transporters, may influence the rate of muscle fatty acid oxidation. However, the predominant point of control appears to be the rate at which fatty acyl–coenzyme A is transported into the mitochondria by the carnitine palmitoyl transferase system. In turn, evidence suggests that the intracellular concentration of malonyl–coenzyme A in muscle is an important regulator of carnitine palmitoyl transferase–I activity. Malonyl–coenzyme A is increased by glucose, which is likely the mechanism whereby glucose intake suppresses the transfer of fatty acids into the mitochondria for subsequent oxidation. In contrast, malonyl–coenzyme A levels decrease during exercise, which enables increased fatty acid oxidation. However, for any given carnitine palmitoyl transferase–I activity, there may be an effect of free fatty acid availability on fatty acid oxidation, particularly at low levels of free fatty acids. Nonetheless, the rate of glucose or glycogen metabolism is probably the primary regulator of the balance between glucose and fatty acid oxidation in muscle.


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  • Article Type: Review Article
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