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Fatty Foods May Lead to Heart Disease in Mysterious Ways

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Fatty foods and heart disease

A University of Cincinnati study shows us that just binging on fatty foods can inflame fat cells that surround the coronary arteries. The inflammation that occurs from eating fatty foods, even for a short time, may contribute to heart disease, even if your cholesterol level and weight are normal. The new research shows that heart disease may happen in mysterious ways.

Neal Weintraub, MD, chair of the cardiovascular diseases division at UC and first study author says the risk of heart disease from eating foods high in fat is independent of cholesterol levels, and unrelated to weight gain. The effect of fatty foods on the body is…"detrimental in ways we didn't previously understand."

The researchers studied fat surrounding the coronary arteries in humans. They discovered the fat cells were highly inflamed, leading them to the conclusion that they could study the process further, by triggering inflammation that may lead to atherosclerosis and heart disease. The group fed mice a high fat diet, much like diets consumed by Americans for two weeks, finding they could increase inflammation in the fat cells surrounding the blood vessels of the heart.

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Eating foods high in fat contributes to heart disease through several mechanisms. Dr. Weintraub explains, "Elevated blood lipids—or cholesterol levels—can worsen with the intake of high fat diets, and this is known to contribute to atherosclerosis. However, many patients who consume high fat diets do not exhibit abnormal lipid profiles but still develop atherosclerosis nonetheless. These new findings suggest a direct link between poor dietary habits and inflammation of blood vessels, mediated by the fat cells surrounding the blood vessel wall."

The study authors say changes in fat cells around the blood vessels of the heart occur in a very short period of time in response to a high fat diet. "This is a warning to those who say there isn't a problem because their weight and cholesterol levels are under control. Lipid profiles don't hold all the answers."

Further studies are planned to explore how a high fat diet inflames fat cells surrounding the coronary arteries - changes that seem to be completely unrelated to weight and cholesterol levels, yet may lead to heart disease in mysterious ways.