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March 2009 Issue

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High-Fat Food Binges Can Damage the Heart

By Katie Pence
Published March 2009

The occasional indulgence in fattening food has generally been considered appropriate. But a new UC study suggests that even small amounts of highfat cuisine may lead to deteriorating heart health.

The study, published in the Feb. 20, 2009, edition of the American Heart Association journal Circulation Research, shows that high-fat diets, even if consumed for a short amount of time, can inflame fat tissue surrounding blood vessels, possibly contributing to cardiovascular disease.

Cardiologist Neal Weintraub, MD, and colleagues examined adipose tissue—or fat—surrounding the coronary arteries of humans.

The team found these fat cells to be highly inflamed, suggesting that they could trigger inflammation of the blood vessels, an important component of atherosclerosis. They also found that the inflammation of fat tissues around the arteries of mice is increased by feeding the animals a high-fat diet for just two weeks.

“This is independent of weight gain or blood lipids—cholesterol levels,” says Weintraub, director of the cardiovascular diseases division at UC. Weintraub says that high-fat diets contribute to atherosclerosis— or the hardening of arteries—in a number of ways.

“Elevated blood lipids—or cholesterol levels—can worsen with the intake of high-fat diets, and this is known to contribute to atherosclerosis,” he says. “Bad dietary habits can lead to a number of problems, and this suggests that a high-fat diet is detrimental in ways we didn’t previously understand.”

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