Obesity is a growing human health concern worldwide and imposes adverse effects on many cell types and organ systems, including the kidneys. Obesity interferes with various cellular processes by increasing lipid accumulation and oxidation, insulin resistance, and inflammation. Autophagy is an important cellular process to maintain hemostasis and preserve resources, but might be altered in obesity. Interestingly, experimental studies have shown either an increase or a decrease in the rate of autophagy, and accumulation of byproducts and mediators of this cascade in kidneys of obese individuals. Hence, whether autophagy is beneficial or detrimental under these conditions remains unresolved. This review summarizes emerging evidence linking superfluous fat accumulation to alterations in autophagy. Elucidating the role of autophagy in the pathogenesis and complications of obesity in the kidney might help in the identification of therapeutic targets to prevent or delay the development of chronic kidney disease in obese subjects.
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