Metabolic set-point control mechanisms in different physiological systems at rest and during exercise

Alan St Clair Gibson, J. H. Goedecke, Yolande Harley, L. J. Myers, Mike I. Lambert, Timothy Noakes, Estelle Lambert

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Citations (Scopus)


Using a number of different homeostatic control mechanisms in the brain and peripheral physiological systems, metabolic activity is continuously regulated at rest and during exercise to prevent catastrophic system failure. Essential for the function of these regulatory processes are baseline “setpoint” levels of metabolic function, which can be used to calculate the level of response required for the maintenance of system homeostasis after system perturbation, and to which the perturbed metabolic activity levels are returned to at the end of the regulatory process. How these setpoint levels of all the different metabolic variables in the different peripheral physiological systems are created and maintained, and why they are similar in different individuals, has not been well explained. In this article, putative system regulators of metabolic setpoint levels are described. These include that: (i) innate setpoint values are stored in a certain region of the central nervous system, such as the hypothalamus; (ii) setpoint values are created and maintained as a response to continuous external perturbations, such as gravity or “zeitgebers”, (iii) setpoint values are created and maintained by complex system dynamical activity in the different peripheral systems, where setpoint levels are regulated by the ongoing feedback control activity between different peripheral variables; (iv) human anatomical and biomechanical constraints contribute to the creation and maintenance of metabolic setpoints values; or (v) a combination of all these four different mechanisms occurs. Exercise training and disease processes can affect these metabolic setpoint values, but the setpoint values are returned to pre-training or pre-disease levels if the training stimulus is removed or if the disease process is cured. Further work is required to determine what the ultimate system regulator of metabolic setpoint values is, why some setpoint values are more stringently protected by homeostatic regulatory mechanisms than others, and the role of conscious decision making processes in determining the regulation of metabolic setpoint values.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)60-72
JournalJournal of Theoretical Biology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2005


Dive into the research topics of 'Metabolic set-point control mechanisms in different physiological systems at rest and during exercise'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this