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Excess fat disrupts heart cell’s energy system

Raghu Kshitiz

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KATHMANDU — Excess fat in the heart — a common feature in diabetes and obesity — may contribute to the two to five fold increased risk of heart failure in people with diabetes, a study by University of Iowa has found.

The heart is the most energy-hungry organ in the body. Just like a combustion engine burning fuel to power the pistons, healthy heart cells consume fuel molecules to create the necessary energy to keep the heart pumping.This essential energy production takes place inside mitochondria, the self-contained ‘powerplant’ organelles inside cells.

Although mitochondria in a healthy heart primarily use fatty acids as fuel, they can easily adapt to use other fuel molecules as needed, including glucose, lactate, and ketone bodies.

Diabetes, however, reduces the heart muscle’s metabolic adaptability and causes heart cells to overuse fat as a metabolic fuel.

“Diabetes, which affects almost 30 million Americans, significantly increases the risk of heart failure, and one of the cardinal manifestations of the hearts of people with diabetes is the tendency to overuse fat as a metabolic fuel, which ultimately leads to mitochondrial and cardiac damage,” said E Dale Abel, from the University of Iowa in the US.

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The study, published in the journal Circulation Research, found this cardiac lipid overload leads to numerous small, misshapen mitochondria that don’t produce energy as efficiently as normal mitochondria.

“We have demonstrated and detected how increasing the amount of fat (lipid) that the heart consumes leads to dramatic changes in the structure and function of the mitochondria in the heart,” Abel said.

To investigate the consequences of cardiac lipid overload on mitochondria, the team used genetically modified mice that mimic the increased fatty acid uptake (lipid overload) that characterises diabetes.

“These studies provide a new window into how these changes to mitochondria could occur in the lipid-overloaded heart,” he added.

In the mouse model, lipid uptake to heart is doubled. This modest increase resulted in mitochondria that became thinner and more twisted than mitochondria in healthy heart cells.

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These structural changes (almost like a noodle snaking through the heart) lead to an appearance of mitochondrial fragmentation when imaged by conventional electron microscopy.

The study also revealed the molecular cause of the change in mitochondrial structure. Prolonged lipid overload leads to increased levels of damaging substances called reactive oxygen species (ROS).

The findings further suggest that cardiac lipid overload disrupts normal mitochondrial structure, which may impair energy production and compromise heart function.

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Health

Red meat, white bread and sugar-laden drinks might increase risk of colon cancer

Raghu Kshitiz

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Heavy diet like red meats, refined grains, white bread and sugar-laden drinks might increase long-term risk of colon cancer, a new study suggests.

These foods all increase inflammation in our body, and the inflammation they cause is associated with a higher chance of developing colon cancer, according to pooled data from two major health studies appeared in JAMA Oncology journal.

According to researchers, a diet high in foods with the potential to cause inflammation, including meats, refined grains and high-calorie beverages, was associated with increased risk of developing colorectal cancer for men and women.

Basically, what makes for a healthy diet overall also appears to promote a cancer-free colon, said senior researcher Dr. Edward Giovannucci. He is a professor of nutrition and epidemiology at Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health in Boston.

“It’s consistent with what we already recommend for a healthy diet in general,” Giovannucci said, adding “I see that as good news. We’re supporting the current evidence, and not telling people to do something completely different from what they’ve been told.”

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For the study, conducted by Fred K Tabung from the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health in Boston, the team analysed 1,21,050 male and female health care professionals, who were followed for 26 years in long-term studies. The researchers completed the food questionnaires about what they ate, on the basis of which data analysis was done last year.

The scores were based on 18 food groups characterised for their inflammatory potential and were then calculated from the questionnaires given to participants every four years.

The results indicated that higher scores reflecting inflammation-causing diets were associated with a higher risk of developing colorectal cancer in men and women.

Previous studies have linked diet factors with colon cancer, but there’s been no clear explanation why that might be, he added.

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