Heart protects itself from fat

April 13, 2010

When you eat a fatty meal, a certain mechanism is activated in the heart, which prevents dangerous substances from being deposited in the heart muscle. This is one of the findings of research carried out at Wageningen University, The Netherlands, in association with the Dutch Heart Foundation.

It is thought that this defence mechanism is less effective in people with a high percentage of . The results will be published today on the website of the American journal ‘’.

The study provides important information about the fat balance in the heart. The heart muscle uses fat as a fuel to enable it to pump the blood around the body. But too much fat is detrimental as it causes dangerous and potentially damaging substances (oxy radicals) to be produced as a by-product of combustion. Damage to the heart muscle can cause all kinds of problems, including and tightness in the chest.

Sander Kersten is Associate professor of nutrition, metabolism and genomics at Wageningen University. While studying the fat balance in the heart, he and his team discovered that if mice are fed a piece of fat, a specific protein (Angptl4) is activated in the heart muscle.

This protein protects the heart from harmful particles that result from excess fat. "It’s like a barrier that can open and close ", explains Kersten.”The fat from the first couple of mouthfuls closes the barrier to the damaging effects of the fat that is on its way."

A wonderful mechanism, but does it mean that we can now eat as much fat as we like? Unfortunately not. Although your heart can cope with the odd fatty meal, eating too much fat on a long-term basis can compromise this handy defence mechanism.

Nutrition is not the only important factor; the amount of body fat also plays an important role. Kersten: "Now we know that fat tissue produces substances that affect the defence mechanism in the heart muscle, we are faced with the following question: what is the impact of too much body fat on the fat balance in the heart?"

At present, we cannot pinpoint the exact BMI (body mass index, an index used for assessing body weight) at which the becomes compromised. "This is not an easy matter. Up until recently, it was impossible to measure the amount of in the hearts of living people, “explains Kersten.”But new advanced technology, such as proton magnetic resonance spectroscopy, is making this easier and will provide a wealth of fresh information."

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Brain cells found to control aging

July 26, 2017
Scientists at Albert Einstein College of Medicine have found that stem cells in the brain's hypothalamus govern how fast aging occurs in the body. The finding, made in mice, could lead to new strategies for warding off age-related ...

Post-stroke patients reach terra firma with new exosuit technology

July 26, 2017
Upright walking on two legs is a defining trait in humans, enabling them to move very efficiently throughout their environment. This can all change in the blink of an eye when a stroke occurs. In about 80% of patients post-stroke, ...

Molecular hitchhiker on human protein signals tumors to self-destruct

July 24, 2017
Powerful molecules can hitch rides on a plentiful human protein and signal tumors to self-destruct, a team of Vanderbilt University engineers found.

Researchers develop new method to generate human antibodies

July 24, 2017
An international team of scientists has developed a method to rapidly produce specific human antibodies in the laboratory. The technique, which will be described in a paper to be published July 24 in The Journal of Experimental ...

New vaccine production could improve flu shot accuracy

July 24, 2017
A new way of producing the seasonal flu vaccine could speed up the process and provide better protection against infection.

A sodium surprise: Engineers find unexpected result during cardiac research

July 20, 2017
Irregular heartbeat—or arrhythmia—can have sudden and often fatal consequences. A biomedical engineering team at Washington University in St. Louis examining molecular behavior in cardiac tissue recently made a surprising ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.