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When Sugar Ain’t Sweet

By on October 27, 2013

Sugar is not your friend. In fact, too much of the sweet stuff can cause undue stress to the heart and for African Americans who are disproportionately overweight and obese, this is a major health issue. Americans overall typically consume too much processed food and sugar.

A single sugar molecule stresses the heart and changes the muscle proteins, resulting in poor pump function leading to heart failure, according to Dr. Heinrich Taegtmeyer, principal  investigator and professor of cardiology at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston. Dr. Taegtmeyer says the glucose metabolite glucose 6-phosphate could accumulate from eating too much starch and/or sugar.

Taegtmeyer performed pre-clinical trials in animal models, as well as tests on tissue taken from patients at the Texas Heart Institute who had a piece of the heart muscle removed to implant a left ventricle assist device by Dr. O.H. “Bud” Frazier and his team. Both led to the discovery of the damage caused by glucose metabolite glucose 6-phosphate, the study said.

“When the heart muscle is already stressed from high blood pressure or other diseases, and then takes in too much glucose, it adds insult to injury,” Taegtmeyer said.

The study opened doors to possible new treatments. Two drugs, rapamycin — an immunosuppressant — and metformin, a diabetes medication, disrupt signaling of glucose metabolite glucose 6-phosphate and improved cardiac power in small animal studies.

“These drugs have a potential for treatment and this has now cleared a path to future studies with patients,” Taegtmeyer said.  The findings were published in the Journal of the American Heart Association.

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