High fat diet may be best for heart failure patients, finds study

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Heart failure and high fat diet

Researchers now say a high fat diet may be beneficial for patients with heart failure, compared to a low fat diet that has been the mainstay of managing cardiovascular disease. The reason, according to investigators from Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, is that more fat in the diet boosts cardiac output and may improve heart function.

In the newer study, Margaret Chandler, PhD and colleagues found more fat in the diet increased cardiac insulin resistance in patients with heart damage, which seems to be beneficial.

The researchers explain damaged hearts prefer glucose for fuel versus carbohydrates and fats used by healthy hearts. What the finding suggests is a damaged heart may need energy from mono- and polyunsaturated fats as opposed to simple sugars like glucose and fructose.

Dr. Chandler explains the finding doesn't mean it's okay to go eat a high fat meal at a popular fast food chain, ..."but treatments that act to provide sufficient energy to the heart and allow the heart to utilize or to maintain its normal metabolic profile may actually be advantageous."

For heart failure, insulin resistance may be beneficial


The finding is a surprise to scientists who believed a high fat diet would stress the heart. Instead, the researchers found animal models given a high fat diet experienced improvement in heart function and that insulin resistance is a good thing.

Instead of using glucose, the researchers found the heart is forced to use its primary energy source, which is fat and not simple sugars.

The finding is significant because there is no way to reverse heart damage that leads to heart failure. Dr. Chandler explains it’s important to create the best environment possible to help damaged hearts beat efficiently and effectively.

The most important finding from the study is that insulin resistance from higher fat intake may be beneficial for heart failure patients, contrary to past advice that a low fat diet should be the focus for managing any form of heart disease.

American Journal of Physiology-Heart and Circulatory Physiology
doi: 10.​1152/​ajpheart.​00270.​2010
"The myocardial contractile response to physiological stress improves
with high saturated fat feeding in heart failure"
Jessica M. Berthiaume, Molly S. Bray, Tracy A. McElfresh, Xiaoqin Chen,
Salman Azam5, Martin E. Young, Brian D. Hoit, and Margaret P. Chandler

Image credit: Wikimedia commons

Author: Hmwith at en.wikipedia


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It's like no-one wants to listen to me! I went onto a ketogenic diet in February 2012 (8 months now). I eat saturated fat - all of the natural fats on meat, fish, chicken, ducks, geese, etc. Cheeses, double cream, coconut oil, extra virgin olive oil and lots and lots of vegetables but the fats are the mainstay. I don't touch any polyunsaturates or margarines of any kind, nor canola. I have heterozygous familial hypercholesterolaemia. Cardiologists used to freak out with my numbers. No statin or fibrate could get it down to below 8. And suddenly it's just about normal since I was born and I am 56. My GP is ecstatic with the outcome! I cannot find another person with this condition going on this diet anywhere in cyber space. I started of my own accord and it was life changing for me. Will never ever go off it again. Plus it's pleasant and fulfilling. Got my 2 sons to go onto it since they also inherited the condition. It seems the more fats I consume the lower my LDL goes. I'm never hungry. Lost quite a bit of weight too but that was not necessary and that was never my motivation. Mine was a life long lipid problem. Yay is all I can say. And delicious! My GP says the blood numbers don't lie, and it is almost as if my lipograms of late don't belong in my very thick file. Cheers everybody.
Do you eat much red meat? I am curious to see how that factors in. Also, do you eat processed meats - lunch meat, cured...?
Hi there Kathleen, I do eat quite a bit of red meat. Was reared on a sheep farm but I do love a steak with a simple salad of avocado chunks, tomatoe, full fat feta (I avoid low fat stuff like the plague), some lettuce, drizzled with olive oil and lemon juice. Unfortunately I don't eat processed anything. Don't have the appetite for it, and I feel if I've gone thus far, why befuddle it with extra chemical additives. I'm hungry in the mornings for the first time in my life, have a lovely breakfast. Since I don't eat pork, I usually have some mackerel or salmon with eggs and fried tomatoe. Unfortunately too, I do have a thin piece of toast in the morn - can't stomach eggs without toast, but apparently bread is to be avoided. The one slice has not proved badly for me. When others eat rice or pasta with a long slow cooked ragout, I have it on some green beans, courgettes, asparagus or some such and again my faithful salad. It did take about 4 months for me not to mourn over sugary beverages, but now I'm sooo done with them. As an asthmatic too (really fell into a strange gene pool) I notice that my lungs don't bother me much nowadays. That's just a side bonus that I personally found. Cheers and take care.