While diet and nutrition are often discussed in relation to prevention of chronic disease, occasionally certain foods are seen as a treatment as well. A new study by researchers from the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Medicine are finding that a certain fat found in olive oil may be beneficial in individuals with heart failure.
Heart failure is a condition that develops over time where the heart becomes weaker and cannot pump enough blood, or with enough force, to the rest of the body. Treatment usually means controlling and stopping the condition from getting worse.
According to this study, a weakened heart is unable to store and process fats to use for fuel, leaving it with less energy. This may result in production of toxic intermediary byproducts that further contribute to heart disease.
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E. Douglas Lewandowski, director of the UIC Center for Cardiovascular Research, and his team wanted to examine how healthy and diseased hearts reacted to oleate (a fat in olive oil ) and palmitate (a fat found in palm oil used in many processed foods as well as cheeses and meats).
The researchers looked at how the hearts of rats were beating when they were given the two different types of fat and found that with oleate there was an immediate improvement in how the hearts contracted and pumped blood, as opposed to palmitate where fat metabolism was imbalanced, cells struggled to access fuel and there was also a rise in toxic fatty byproducts.
In addition, it was observed that oleate also increased the activation of several genes for enzymes that metabolize fat. Lewandowski said it was an exciting finding that beneficial gene expression can be restored, with a more balanced fat metabolism and a reduction of toxic fat metabolites, just by supplying hearts with oleate.
It is well established that olive oil has a protective effect. The discovery that it may be able to influence the heart positively, even after the appearance of disease, makes it important not only to prevention but a promising contributor to a treatment regimen too.