Sugar Consumption Increases Risk of Heart Disease
First fruit fly model of diet-induced type 2 diabetes shows how high-sugar diet affects the heart and reveals new therapeutic opportunities
Regularly consuming sucrose—the type of sugar found in many sweetened beverages—increases a person's risk of heart disease, according to a new study by researchers at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai and Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute. The researchers used fruit flies to determine exactly how sucrose affects heart function.
The paper, titled "A Drosophila Model of High Sugar Diet-Induced Cardiomyopathy," is published January 10 online in the journal PLOS Genetics.
"Just by feeding fruit flies a high sugar diet, we were able to mimic diabetic cardiomyopathy to a remarkable degree. That it worked so well is surprising enough—and tells us something important about the link between dietary sugar and heart damage—but I am especially excited at the potential to use this unconventional model as a tool to identify therapeutics," said the study's lead author, Ross L. Cagan, PhD, , Professor of Developmental and Regenerative Biology and Associate Dean of The Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences at the Icahn School of Medicine.
The research team was the first to model heart disease caused by type 2 diabetes in fruit flies. They achieved this by feeding the flies a diet high in sucrose. High-sucrose flies showed many classic signs of human type 2 diabetes, including high blood sugar and insulin signaling defects. The team also saw signs of diabetes-induced heart malfunction in these flies including cardiac arrhythmia and fibrosis.
Next the researchers looked for molecular networks triggered or altered by sucrose in order to determine the mechanism that causes sucrose to become harmful to hearts. They identified a biochemical system, called the hexosamine pathway, and found that artificially increasing sucrose processing via the hexosamine pathway harms the heart. In contrast, when they specifically blocked this pathway, they prevented some of the high-sucrose-induced heart defects, such as cardiac arrhythmias.
"Diet-induced heart damage is one of our society's most serious health issues. Our flies now give us a tool to explore the role of high dietary sugar, and the means to identify treatments in the context of the whole body," said Dr. Cagan.
This research was funded by the U.S. National Institutes of Health (National Institute for General Medical Sciences; National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute; National Institute on Aging; National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases), the American Diabetes Association, the American Heart Association, the Children's Discovery Institute, and the Ellison Medical Foundation.
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The Mount Sinai Medical Center encompasses both The Mount Sinai Hospital and Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. Established in 1968, the Icahn School of Medicine is one of the leading medical schools in the United States, and is noted for innovation in education, biomedical research, clinical care delivery, and local and global community service. It has more than 3,400 faculty in 32 departments and 14 research institutes, and ranks among the top 20 medical schools both in National Institutes of Health (NIH) funding and by U.S. News & World Report.
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