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Do you have a sweet heart? Understanding the possible role of fructose in diabetic heart disease

Dr Kim Mellor. Photo: Supplied

Dr Kim Mellor from Waipapa Taumata Rau the University of Auckland will investigate the detrimental role of fructose in the diabetic heart


Published on 3 Whiringa-ā-rangi November 2022

High dietary sugar is known to induce metabolic disease such as diabetes, and research is now pointing to a greater role of sugar in heart disease. Levels of fructose in our blood are generally low compared to glucose levels, so fructose was not previously thought to play much of a role in diabetes at the organ level. However, Dr Mellor and her team have recently discovered that fructose levels in the heart can be dramatically elevated in diabetic patients. A promising finding from this work so far is that inhibiting the breakdown of cardiac fructose can reverse or ‘rescue’ heart disease onset in diabetic animals. Beyond this exciting discovery, little is known about how fructose is metabolised (converted into energy at the cellular level) by the heart.

Kim Mellor and a colleague look at data displayed on a screen

Microscopy in action. Photo: Supplied

Dr Mellor has been awarded a Marsden Fund Standard grant to take a closer look at what contributes to elevated fructose in the diabetic heart, including finding out if the fructose from our diets plays a role, or if cellular production is the culprit. The team will utilise biochemical, physiological and state-of-the-art imaging methods to track how fructose is metabolised in the diabetic heart.

The findings from these studies will further our understanding of the role of our metabolism in disease, potentially to leading to novel treatments for diabetic heart disease. Given the current high prevalence of metabolic and cardiac disease, the long-term benefit of this advance in knowledge has far-reaching health and economic impact, both in Aotearoa and globally.