Medium-chain Fatty Acids as Metabolic Therapy in Cardiac Disease



Medium-chain fatty acids (MCFAs) have physical and metabolic properties that are distinct from those of long-chain fatty acids, which make them a readily available cellular energy source. These properties have been used advantageously in the clinics for more than 50 years for treating lipid absorption disorders, undernourished patients, and more recently subjects with long-chain fatty acid oxidation defects. In these latter subjects, nutritional interventions with MCFA-containing triglycerides have been shown to improve clinical symptoms, particularly cardiomyopathies.

Potential benefits of MCFA metabolism in cardiac diseases

There is, however, only a limited number of studies that have considered the potential use of MCFAs as metabolic therapy for cardiac diseases in general. Nevertheless, current experimental evidence does support the notion that the diseased heart is energy deficient and that alterations in myocardial energy substrate metabolism contribute to contractile dysfunction and cardiac disease development and progression. Hence, this article will review current literature on MCFAs with a specific emphasis on their metabolism and potential benefits for the heart. It will include practical considerations about the potential clinical application of MCFA therapy for the management of patients with cardiac diseases.

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This work was supported by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR Grant # 9575 to C.D.R.) and by the Montreal Heart Institute Foundation. The authors are grateful to Dr Henri Brunengraber, for providing 13C-labelled heptanoate, Dr Robert A. Harris for stimulating discussions, and Bertrand Bouchard for technical assistance.

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Correspondence to Christine Des Rosiers.

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Grants: This study was supported by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR Grant # 9575 to C.D.R.) and by the Montreal Heart Institute Foundation.

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Labarthe, F., Gélinas, R. & Des Rosiers, C. Medium-chain Fatty Acids as Metabolic Therapy in Cardiac Disease. Cardiovasc Drugs Ther 22, 97–106 (2008).

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Key words

  • medium-chain fatty acid
  • heart
  • cardiomyopathy
  • metabolism
  • energy
  • nutrition