Low-Cal Diet Cuts Fat Around Heart in Obese People: Study

That led to improved heart function, researchers said

MONDAY, Nov. 28, 2011 (HealthDay News) -- Heart function improved in obese people with type 2 diabetes who ate a very low-calorie diet, a small new study says.

Researchers measured body-mass index (BMI) and used MRI to analyze heart function and pericardial fat in 15 obese people (seven men and eight women) with type 2 diabetes before and four months after they started consuming a 500-calorie-per-day diet.

Pericardial fat collects around the heart and can harm cardiac function.

Their diabetes improved immediately after cutting calories, according to the study.

Four months after the participants began the low-calorie diet, average BMI fell from 35.3 to 27.5 (statistical obesity begins at a BMI of 30), and pericardial fat decreased from 39 milliliters (ml) to 31 ml.

A key measure of diastolic heart function fell to healthier levels, as well, the study found. Diastolic heart function involves that period of the heart beat when the ventricles are filling up with blood. Poor diastolic heart function can lead to congestive heart failure.

After another 14 months of follow-up when the participants ate a regular diet, average BMI increased to 31.7, but pericardial fat only rose slightly to 32 ml and E/A ratio was 1.06.

The study was to be presented Monday at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America.

"Our results show that 16 weeks of caloric restriction improved heart function in these patients," lead author Dr. Sebastiaan Hammer, of Leiden University Medical Center in the Netherlands, said in an RSNA news release. "More importantly, despite regain of weight, these beneficial cardiovascular effects were persistent over the long term."

While the results are promising and showed that lifestyle interventions appeared to provide more significant heart benefits than medication in these patients, obese people should not try to go on a very low-calorie diet on their own. It has to be done under medical supervision, Hammer noted.

Because this study was presented at a medical meeting, the data and conclusions should be viewed as preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.

More information

The U.S. National Institute of Diabetes, Digestive and Kidney Diseases has more about diabetes treatments.

SOURCE: Radiological Society of North America, news release, Nov. 28, 2011
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