High-fat keto diets can prevent or reverse damage from heart failure

ST. LOUIS, Mo. — It seems like there’s a new dieting trend every year which fans say is the best for your health. For those who enjoy diets that include more fat in their meals, a new study has good news for you and your heart. Researchers at Saint Louis University say diets high in fat and low in carbs, like the ketogenic diet, can not only prevent but also reverse heart failure.

The study on heart failure in mice and humans finds the muscles of the heart need large amounts of chemical energy stored in nutrients. This energy fuels cardiac contraction. The results show keto diets — which are rich in seafood, low-carb vegetables, meats and cheeses, and superfoods like eggs and avocado — fuel this process better than foods rich in carbohydrates.

“Thus, these studies suggest that consumption of higher fat and lower carbohydrate diets may be a nutritional therapeutic intervention to treat heart failure,” lead researcher Kyle S. McCommis says in a university release.

Researchers discovered that the heart is very flexible and can adapt to various metabolic fuel supplies in order keep up with the body’s demand for energy. The heart’s ability to be flexible with its food fuel is lower in patients dealing with diabetes and heart failure.

How keto diet can be key to fixing the heart

The study finds pyruvate is a vital chemical tied to heart health. This substance is the simplest form of alpha-keto acids.

The mitochondrial pyruvate carrier (MPC) complex helps to move these chemicals into the powerhouses of the cells, better known as the mitochondria. When researchers remove MPC from the genes of mice, the animal suffered cardiac remodeling and dysfunction.

“Interestingly, this heart failure can be prevented or even reversed by providing a high-fat, low carbohydrate ‘ketogenic’ diet,” McCommis, an assistant professor in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology explains. “A 24-hour fast in mice, which is also ‘ketogenic’ also provided significant improvement in heart remodeling.”

Aside from the keto diet and fasting practices, the study finds diets high in fat but with enough carbs to limit ketosis also improve heart function. Ketosis occurs when the body doesn’t have enough carbohydrates to burn for energy.

“Our study reveals a critical role for mitochondrial pyruvate utilization in cardiac function, and highlights the potential of dietary interventions to enhance cardiac fat metabolism to prevent or reverse cardiac dysfunction and remodeling in the setting of MPC-deficiency,” McCommis concludes.

The study appears in the journal Nature Metabolism.

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