Olive Oil Component Reverses Heart Failure
Oleate is a dietary fat found in heart-healthy olive oil. Researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago reported recently that this simple ingredient—which is an integral component of the Mediterranean diet—can restore proper fat metabolism in heart muscle, in an animal model of human heart failure.
Unlike a heart attack, which strikes rapidly, heart failure is a chronic condition. Longterm high blood pressure forces the heart muscle to work ever harder to circulate blood. Eventually the muscle enlarges (becoming “hypertrophic”), even as pumping ability declines. A failing heart in this condition is also inefficient at burning fat for fuel.
Fats are the fuel of choice for hard-working heart muscle cells, so the loss of the ability to burn these fuels efficiently results in a form of starvation for the cells. Furthermore, the fats that are no longer burned properly break down into toxic byproducts, further contributing to the decline of heart function.
Investigators wondered what effect various dietary fats might have on the ability of failing hearts to continue pumping. They administered either oleate—from olive oil—or palmitate—another common fat that’s present in dairy products, animal fats, and palm oil. The palmitate actually made things worse. But the oleate had the opposite effect. “…We saw an immediate improvement in how the hearts contracted and pumped blood,” said E. Douglas Lewandowski, director of the UIC Center for Cardiovascular Research.
Using high-tech imaging, the researchers were able to track the metabolic activity of heart muscle cells in real time. Remarkably, oleate restored the heart’s ability to metabolize fats properly. Additionally, oleate boosted the expression of certain genes associated with fat metabolism in the heart. In essence, the olive oil fat prompted the heart to improve its functionality, rather than decline.
“These genes are often suppressed in hypertrophic hearts,” said Lewandowski, in a 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.”
If you haven’t made the switch yet to extra virgin olive oil, I strongly encourage you to do so. Your heart will thank you. “This gives more proof to the idea that consuming healthy fats like oleate can have a significantly positive effect on cardiac health,” Lewandowski said – even after disease has begun.
Ryan Lahey, Xuerong Wang, Andrew N. Carley, and E. Douglas Lewandowski. Dietary Fat Supply to Failing Hearts Determines Dynamic Lipid Signaling for Nuclear Receptor Activation and Oxidation of Stored Triglyceride. Circulation, September 2014 DOI: 10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.114.011687