New research published in the journal Circulation indicates that following what's known as the Mediterranean diet may be very beneficial to patients suffering from heart failure. Researchers at the University of Illinois-Chicago Center for Cardiovascular Research have prompted restorative changes in rats with heart failure using olive oil—a huge accomplishment considering that there is no known cure or way to reverse heart failure in humans.
According to The Independent, healthy hearts draw upon body fat for use as a sort of fuel to keep the heart pumping. The thickening and enlargement of the organ caused by heart failure can make the heart too weak to process fats - effectively cutting off one of its main power sources.
The researchers at UIC exposed rats who had been diagnosed with heart failure to two different sorts of fats: palmitate (common in animal fats) and oleate (fat found in olive oil). As the researchers had predicted, the rat hearts that were exposed to palmitate continued to decline in condition and struggle to pump blood. While they expected oleate to be far less harmful, they were excited to see that the hearts exposed to it actually seemed to increase in health and functionality almost immediately.
In speaking with The Independent, Douglas Lewandowski, one of the lead researchers, indicated that the implications of this study could be significant to the medical community moving forward.
"The fact that we can restore beneficial gene expression, as well as more balanced fat metabolism, plus reduce toxic fat just by supplying hearts with oleate is a very exciting finding," said Lewandowski. "This gives more proof to the idea that consuming healthy fats can have a significantly positive effect on cardiac health."