Published On: Wed, Feb 18th, 2015

High-fat diet cuts heart attack damage 50 percent

Washington: Eating a high-fat diet may reduce heart attack damage by about 50 percent – but only in the short run, a new study in mice has found.

Studies indicate a high fat diet may reduce heart attack damage - but only in the short run.Photo : Getty Images

Studies indicate a high fat diet may reduce heart attack damage – but only in the short run.
Photo : Getty Images

It is well known that over the long run, a high-fat diet increases the risk of heart attack and stroke.

The new study found that a high-fat diet, eaten one day to two weeks before a heart attack, actually reduced heart attack damage in mice by about 50 per cent.

“The study improves our understanding of the relationship between diet and health,” said W Keith Jones, of Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine, who led the study.

“Learning about how fat, in the short run, protects against heart attacks could help in the development of better therapies,” Jones said.

Jones emphasised the study is not a license to eat a lot of cheeseburgers and ice cream.

In the study, mice were given a high-fat diet (60 per cent of calories from animal fat) before experiencing heart attacks.

Mice that consumed a high-fat diet for either one day, one week or two weeks before the heart attack experienced about half as much heart damage as mice that ate a control diet.

The benefit was greatest among mice that ate a high-fat diet for one week before the heart attack. But in mice that ate a high-fat diet for six weeks, the protective effect disappeared.

Further research is needed to understand why this is so; the reason may be due to the bad effects of a persistent high-fat diet, Jones said.

Jones said that in the short-term, a high-fat diet protects the heart through a mechanism called autophagy, which works somewhat like a garbage truck.

Proteins damaged by the heart attack are removed from heart cells as if they were garbage, thus increasing the chances the cells will survive.

Acutely, a high-fat diet increases levels of a molecule in the blood that activates protective pathways in heart muscle.

This increases the readiness of the “garbage trucks,” which means that the cell becomes resistant to damage when the heart attack occurs. As a result, more heart muscle survives.

The current study “opens a new perspective on the acute effects of a high-fat diet,” first author Lauren Haar, PhD and colleagues wrote.

“Future work will determine whether these effects are linked to the obesity paradox and whether studying the mechanism can identify therapeutic targets for cardioprotection,” said Haar.

The study was published in the American Journal of Physiology – Heart and Circulatory Physiology.


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