For decades, fat was the villain of the nutritional world. Read any diet manual or guide to healthy eating from before the early 2000s, and you’ll find recommendations to eat low-fat foods, even if those foods contain sugar. Thankfully, modern science has uncovered the truth: the real villain is sugar, and the body needs fat in order to function. Now, fat has become an integral part of a healthy, balanced diet.
According to a new study, fat can do something even more excellent than promoting weight loss or increasing hormone production: it can aid in a very challenging diagnosis. A team of researchers from the University of Illinois at Chicago found that putting a patient on a high-fat diet for 72 hours increased the chance of an accurate sarcoidosis diagnosis.
Sarcoidosis is an inflammatory disease that sets into multiple organs at once, especially the lymph nodes and lungs. It’s most common among African-Americans and can lead to death by both pulmonary fibrosis and sarcoidosis-related heart failure. The problem is that the disease is very difficult to diagnose. Multiple techniques (such as CT scans and PET scans) must be used to determine the diagnosis, but the scans can be ambiguous and hard to understand. Until now, it has been difficult for doctors to definitively diagnose sarcoidosis.
This is due to the fact that the radioactive tracer (known as fludeoxyglucose, or FDG) used for the scans is very similar to glucose, your body’s primary energy source. Heart cells affected by sarcoidosis absorb the FDG too quickly, making it difficult to get a proper scan. But the addition of a high-fat diet has actually made it easier for doctors to diagnose sarcoidosis.
The high-fat diet delivers a hefty amount of fat for the heart cells to use for energy. Of the 207 patients who consumed a high-fat diet for 72 hours prior to their scans, the results were accurate in 96% of the cases—much higher than the 58% accuracy among the group that only ate a high-fat diet for 24 hours before the scans.
Such a simple discovery (give the heart more fat for longer and cut back on sugar), yet such amazing benefits. By making this minor change to the pre-scan routine, the accuracy of the imaging (and thereby the diagnosis) increases significantly. Countless lives can now be saved, all thanks to a high-fat diet.
1. Lu, Yang MD, Ph.D.; Grant, Christopher MD; Xie, Karen MD; Sweiss, Nadera J. MD, “Suppression of Myocardial 18F-FDG Uptake Through Prolonged High-Fat, High-Protein, and Very-Low-Carbohydrate Diet Before FDG-PET/CT for Evaluation of Patients With Suspected Cardiac Sarcoidosis,” Clinical Nuclear Medicine, doi: 10.1097/RLU.0000000000001465, published 3 December 2016.