Is it really possible that humans could eat any kind of fat they want without risking heart disease? Just by removing a certain gene?
If a new mouse study holds true for humans, the answer could be yes. Or scientists could just develop a drug to mimic this effect.
In research funded by the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute, scientists discovered that mice could eat any type of fat, even trans fat, without getting heart disease.
But only if they first removed a mouse gene that causes an enzyme called ACAT2 to be produced. ACAT2 changes the molecular structure of cholesterol so it can be transported to the body’s cells.
Without the gene, the mice didn’t develop atherosclerosis, which is the accumulation of fatty deposits in the blood vessels. This can lead to strokes and heart attacks.
How Would It Work In Humans?
One way to protect humans from the heart effects of high-fat diets may be to develop a drug that reduces ACAT2 activity.
Researchers already know that women produce less ACAT2 than men.
Also, estrogen can reduce ACAT2 production. This may partially explain why premenopausal women are less likely than men to get heart disease.
As far as I know, the study didn’t address who would be most likely to take such a drug.
Do you take it if you have a family history of heart disease and high cholesterol levels? Or do you only take the drug after the presence of heart disease is detected?
Some Pros And Cons
In one way, it’s an exciting finding.
The ability to eat any kind of fat without worrying about heart disease means we could stop all these food reformulations from saturated fat to trans fat to interesterified fat to whatever the new fad fat is.
We could just go back to what tastes good.
But on the other hand, the potential answer is still a drug. Which means side effects and all the new risks that go with that.
It’s worth looking into. But I don’t think we should abandon the search for a dietary solution.
There are cultures who eat high fat diets with low rates of heart disease. For example, the residents of Crete, a small island near Greece.
As I mentioned in my earlier blog post, Live Long And Prosper, researchers believe the Cretans’ hearts are protected by all the olive oil they consume.
So I would try dietary changes before using a drug. But it’s a decision best made by you and your doctor if such a drug becomes available in the future.