Recent studies have evidenced that alterations of cardiac metabolism can be present in several cardiac syndromes. In heart failure, wasting of subcutaneous fat and skeletal muscle is relatively common and suggests an increased utilisation of non-carbohydrate substrates for energy production. In fact, fasting blood ketone bodies as well as fat oxidation during exercise have been shown to be increased in patients with heart failure. This metabolic shift determines a reduction of myocardial oxygen consumption efficiency. A direct approach to manipulate cardiac energy metabolism consists in modifying substrate utilisation by the heart. To date, the most effective metabolic treatments include several pharmacological agents that directly inhibit fatty acid oxidation. Clinical studies have shown that these agents can substantially increase the ischaemic threshold in patients with effort angina. However, the results of current research is also supporting the concept that shifting the energy substrate preference away from fatty acid metabolism and towards glucose metabolism could be an effective adjunctive treatment in patients with heart failure, in terms of left ventricular function and glucose metabolism improvement. In fact, these agents have also been shown to improve overall glucose metabolism in diabetic patients with left ventricular dysfunction. In this paper, the recent literature on the beneficial therapeutic effects of modulation of cardiac metabolic substrates utilisation in patients with heart failure is reviewed and discussed.
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