The rats that were fed a high fat diet and had to run on the treadmill also had a significantly bigger heart after nine days, suggesting the heart had to increase in size to pump more blood around the body and get more oxygen to the muscles.
While this research has been done in rats, the Oxford team and Andrew Murray's new group in Cambridge are now carrying out similar studies in humans, looking at the effect of a short term high-fat diet on exercise and cognitive ability.
The results will be important not only in informing athletes of the best diets to help their training routine, but also in developing ideal diets for patients with metabolic disorders such as diabetes, insulin resistance or obesity. People with such conditions can have high levels of fat in the blood and show poor exercise tolerance, some cognitive decline, and can even develop dementia over time.
'These are startling results,' says Professor Kieran Clarke, head of the research team at Oxford University. 'It shows that high-fat feeding even over short periods of time can markedly affect gene expression, metabolism and physical performance. By optimising diets appropriately we should be able to increase athletes' endurance and help patients with metabolic abnormalities improve their ability to exercise and do more.'
'In little more than a week, a change in diet appears to have made the rats' hearts much less efficient,' says Professor Jeremy Pearson, Associate Medical Director of the British Heart Foundation, who funded the research. 'We look forward to the results of the equivalent studies in human volunteers, which should tell us more about the short-term effects of high-fat foods on our hearts. We already know that to protect our heart health in the long-term, we should cut down on foods high in saturated fat.'
|Contact: Genevieve Maul|
University of Cambridge