High-fat Diets Could Help Damaged Hearts

High-fat Diets Could Help Damaged Hearts

Contrary to decades of dietary recommendations, cutting fats might not help patients suffering from heart failure. In fact, a School of Medicine study demonstrated that a high-fat diet actually improved a damaged heart’s ability to pump.

“Does that mean I can go out and eat a Big Mac after I have a heart attack? No,” says Margaret Chandler, PhD, assistant professor of physiology and biophysics. “But treatments that provide sufficient energy to the heart and allow it to maintain its normal metabolic profile may actually be advantageous to long-term cardiac function.”

Healthy hearts use a combination of fats and carbohydrates for energy to keep pumping. But if a person develops heart failure, the heart is programmed to switch to using glucose for fuel because it requires less oxygen to produce energy. The study shows a high-fat diet produces a state of insulin resistance in biologic models—with less glucose being taken up from the blood; this forces the heart to rely mainly on fats as the preferred energy source, Chandler says.

“Our research goal is to provide an environment for the heart that allows it to be as effective and efficient a pump as possible,” she says, “regardless of the damage it has undergone.”