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Fat may spur heart cells on to suicide

As if clogged arteries weren't bad enough, the mere presence of fat in the heart may kill cells and eventually lead to heart failure, researchers suggest in the April 2001 Journal of Clinical Investigation.

Jean E. Schaffer and her colleagues at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis believe that a surplus of long-chain fatty acids, the lipid molecules that the heart normally uses for fuel, may endanger cells if the fat accumulates beyond normal amounts. The buildup may prompt the organ's cells to commit suicide.

Heart disease and the accumulation of fat in the organ often go hand in hand. This can be true whether the condition originates with an inherited defect, is associated with a disease such a diabetes, or "comes out of the blue," as it might after a viral infection, says Schaffer.

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