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Healthy Fats can Help Damaged Heart Muscle Process Fuel

Update Date: Sep 29, 2014 04:04 PM EDT

When the heart muscle is damaged, it can no longer process or store fats to use as fuel. Without these fats, which are contained within lipid bodies in the heart muscle cells, the heart muscle becomes starved for energy. In a new study, researchers tested the effects of using healthy fats on the failing hearts of animal models. They found that one kind of fat from olive oil, oleate, can help the diseased muscle properly process and use fuel.

For this study, the researchers from the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Medicine experimented on both healthy and failing rat hearts that were intact and beating. The heart samples were given either oleate or plamitate, which is another kind of fat that can be found in dairy products, animal fats and palm oil.

"We saw an immediate improvement in how the hearts contracted and pumped blood," said senior and corresponding author of the study. E. Douglas Lewandowski, in regards to the oleate-supplied hearts. Lewandowski is the director of the UIC Center for Cardiovascular Research.

The research team was able to track the effects of oleate on the heart in real time and found that oleate helped restore the diseased heart's ability to metabolize fuel properly. Oleate also helped with the activation of certain genes for enzymes that are linked to fat metabolism.

"These genes are often suppressed in hypertrophic hearts," Lewandowski said according to the press release. "So the fact that we can restore beneficial gene expression, as well as more balanced fat metabolism, plus reduce toxic fat metabolites, just by supplying hearts with oleate - a common dietary fat - is a very exciting finding. This gives more proof to the idea that consuming healthy fats like oleate can have a significantly positive effect on cardiac health."

The effects of palmitate were not as beneficial. The diseased heart muscles that were supplied with palmitate had imbalanced fat metabolism and an increase in toxic fatty byproducts. The cells had difficulty accessing fuel as well.

The study was published in the journal, Circulation.

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