Restoration of coronary endothelial function in obese Zucker rats by a low-carbohydrate diet

Marta Focardi, Gregory M. Dick, Andrea Picchi, Cuihua Zhang, William M. Chilian

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29 Scopus citations


A popular diet used for weight reduction is the low-carbohydrate diet, which has most calories derived from fat and protein, but effects of this dietary regimen on coronary vascular function have not been identified. We tested the hypothesis that obesity-induced impairment in coronary endothelial function is reversed by a low-carbohydrate diet. We used four groups of male Zucker rats: lean and obese on normal and low-carbohydrate diets. Rats were fed ad libitum for 3 wk; total caloric intake and weight gain were similar in both diets. To assess endothelial and vascular function, coronary arterioles were cannulated and pressurized for diameter measurements during administration of acetylcholine or sodium nitroprusside or during flow. When compared with lean rats, endothelium-dependent acetylcholine-induced vasodilation was impaired by ∼50% in obese rats (normal diet), but it was restored to normal by the low-carbohydrate diet. When the normal diet was fed, flow-induced dilation (FID) was impaired by >50% in obese compared with lean rats. Similar to acetylcholine, responses to FID were restored to normal by a low-carbohydrate diet. Nω-nitro-L-arginine methyl ester (10 μM), an inhibitor of nitric oxide (NO) synthase, inhibited acetylcholine- and flow-induced dilation in lean rats, but it had no effect on acetylcholine- or flow-induced vasodilation in obese rats on a low-carbohydrate diet. Tetraethylammonium, a nonspecific K+ channel antagonist, blocked flow-dependent dilation in the obese rats, suggesting that the improvement in function was mediated by a hyperpolarizing factor independent of NO. In conclusion, obesity-induced impairment in endothelium-dependent vasodilation of coronary arterioles can be dramatically improved with a low-carbohydrate diet most likely through the production of a hyperpolarizing factor independent of NO.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)H2093-H2099
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Heart and Circulatory Physiology
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2007


  • Atkins diet
  • Coronary circulation
  • Endothelium
  • Nitric oxide


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