A new study on mice has raised the hope that it might one day be possible for humans to eat what they want without having to worry about the risk of developing heart disease.
Boffins at the Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center have successfully deleted a gene in the mice that causes production of ACAT2, an enzyme that alters the molecular structure of cholesterol so that it can be transported to the bodys cells.
Lawrence Rudel, Ph.D., a professor of comparative medicine, said that the study raised hope for humans.
"We deleted an enzyme in mice and they could eat any type of fat and not get heart disease. If youre a mouse, its great. Of course, we dont know yet if it will be the same in humans," he said.
"Regardless of the type of fatty acid in the diet, even trans fat, no atherosclerosis occurs if the ACAT2 enzyme isnt present. Our research in animals tells us that ACAT2 is a potential treatment target to protect people against heart disease," he added.
As a part of the study groups of female mice with and without the ACAT2 gene were fed six different diets enriched with one of these types of fat: fish oil, flax seed oil, polyunsaturated fat from vegetable oil, saturated fat, trans-monounsaturated fat and cis-monounsaturated fat, such as in olive oil.
Fish oil, flax seed oil and polyunsaturated fats are considered "healthy" fats. Saturated fat found in meats, milk and cheeses, coconut oil, palm oil and palm kernel oil is considered a main cause of high cholesterol.
There are two types of monounsaturated fatty acids, "cis" and "trans," which are named according to their shapes. Trans-fatty acids are formed when vegetable oil is treated to make it less likely to go rancid and are found in many fried foods, baked goods and potato chips.
Cis monounsaturated fat is naturally occurring and is particularly high in canola and olive oil.
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