The cells of diabetic hearts not only absorbed more fat, they also burned a higher percentage of the fats they took in. As a result, diabetic heart muscle used about half as much glucose and four times more fat for energy than the hearts of non-diabetics.
The researchers are now engaged in a larger study of heart muscle metabolism in type 2 diabetics. Patients in the study are divided into two groups with one group receiving standard therapies to normalize blood glucose levels and the other group receiving additional therapies designed to decrease the amount of fat in the blood. The study is still accruing patients, and people with type 2 diabetes who would like to participate can call 314-362-8608.
If the increased blood-fat levels are confirmed to be responsible for the dysfunctional metabolism of diabetic heart muscle, reducing fat levels may become an important way to decrease illness and death from cardiovascular disease in diabetics, according to the authors.
"We believe it's not enough to control blood glucose in diabetes," Gropler says. "You also have to target fat delivery to the heart. If you decrease the fat delivery through a combination of diet, exercise and drugs, you'll improve the heart's ability to use other energy sources, which will improve heart health."