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A High Fat Keto Diet Could Prevent And Completely Reverse Heart Failure, Says Study

Timothy Boyer Ph.D.'s picture
A Keto Diet could prevent you from having a heart attack.

A new study suggests that eating a high fat and low carb diet may be a nutritional therapeutic intervention to treat patients with heart failure as well as act as a preventive measure toward ensuring good cardiac health.


Researchers at St. Louis University have found a potentially non-invasive therapeutic way to treat patients who have had heart failure, by adopting a specific diet. The diet has worked remarkably well in a laboratory mouse model for cardiac conditions that consists of cardiac dilation and contractile dysfunction, which were both reversed when fed a high fat Keto diet.

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The study, published in the journal Nature Metabolism explains that heart muscle requires a significant amount of metabolic activity to provide chemical energy stored in nutrients to keep the heart pumping continually—a process dependent upon what the researchers refer to as a “heart’s metabolic flexibility.”

However whenever this metabolic flexibility becomes impaired, it can adversely affect the functioning of the heart and has been associated with conditions such as heart failure and diabetes in humans.

The researchers report that key players to this metabolic flexibility involve the mitochondrial pyruvate carrier (MPC) complex, composed of proteins coded by the Mpc1 and Mpc2 genes. These proteins complexed together are required for pyruvate import into the mitochondria—the power houses of energy that keeps the cardiac cells working together providing the pumping action of the heart myocardium.

The significance of this is that when MPC1 and MPC2 gene expression is down-regulated or disrupted in some way, the aforementioned cardiac anomalies occur.

For example, when mouse models of cardiac disease were created that have a deletion of the Mpc2 gene, the mice initially exhibit normal cardiac size and function at 6 weeks old, but progressively develop cardiac dilation and contractile dysfunction. In other words, the absence of the protein coded by the Mpc2 gene required for pyruvate import into the mitochondria of the cardiac cells led to the heart actually remodeling itself, leading to impaired cardiac functioning.

Using this mouse model of cardiac disease, what the researchers found was that when fed a high-fat, low-carbohydrate ketogenic diet the mouse heart myocardium and its functions improved enough to be described as “completely reversed.” Furthermore, the researchers also found that placing the same mice under acute fasting conditions also improved the myocardium in the affected mice.

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"Interestingly, this heart failure can be prevented or even reversed by providing a high-fat, low carbohydrate "ketogenic" diet," stated Kyle S. McCommis, Ph.D., assistant professor in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at SLU, and the lead author of the study.

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"A 24-hour fast in mice, which is also "ketogenic" also provided significant improvement in heart remodeling…thus, these studies suggest that consumption of higher fat and lower carbohydrate diets may be a nutritional therapeutic intervention to treat heart failure."

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The news release summarizes the study’s results as follows:

• Diets enriched with higher levels of fat but enough carbohydrate and protein to limit ketosis were also able to significantly improve or even prevent cardiac remodeling and dysfunction in a mouse model.

• These studies suggest that consumption of higher fat and lower carbohydrate diets may be a nutritional therapeutic intervention to treat heart failure.

• Like ketogenic diet, prolonged fasting increases the cardiac reliance on fatty acid oxidation and reduces ketolytic flux despite increased cardiac ketone body delivery. The 24-hour fast reduced blood glucose levels, and strongly enhanced plasma concentrations of non-esterified fatty acids and ketone bodies.

• Ketogenic diet consumption for only three weeks and the concordant increase in fat metabolism was associated with reverse remodeling of the failing hearts to essentially normal size.

• These results suggest that ketogenic diets do not enhance cardiac ketone body metabolism, but rather stimulates fatty acid oxidation, which may be responsible for the improved cardiac remodeling and performance.

"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," says McCommis.

The news release states that, “Ongoing studies will seek to uncover the importance of ketone body versus fate metabolism in this process of improved cardiac remodeling.”

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Timothy Boyer has a Ph.D. in Molecular and Cellular Biology from the University of Arizona. For 20+ years he has been employed as a freelance health and science writer. Today, with an eye on the latest news, Timothy continues writing about science with a focus on what you need to know for healthier living. For continual updates about health, you can also follow Timothy on Twitter at TimBoyerWrites.

Image Source: Courtesy of Mohamed Hassan from Pixabay


High fat or 'ketogenic' diets could prevent, reverse heart failure” St. Louis University research news 27 Oct. 2020.

Nutritional modulation of heart failure in mitochondrial pyruvate carrier–deficient mice” McCommis, K.S., Kovacs, A., Weinheimer, C.J. et al. Nutritional modulation of heart failure in mitochondrial pyruvate carrier–deficient mice. Nat Metab (2020).