May 29, 2007 / 4:26 PM / 12 years ago

High-fat diet may increase ecstasy danger

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - A high-fat diet may make people more vulnerable to a potentially lethal side effect of the drug ecstasy, new animal research suggests.

Most ecstasy-related deaths are caused by hyperthermia, severe overheating that can lead to organ failure. The over-heating effect of the drug is exacerbated by the conditions in which ecstasy is often used, which typically includes crowded clubs or parties where people dance and become dehydrated.

Now new findings, published online in the British Journal of Pharmacology, suggest that a high-fat diet may further boost the risk of overheating.

Dr. Jon E. Sprague of Ohio Northern University in Ada and colleagues conduction experiments with rats fed either a high- or low-fat diet for four weeks. The researchers found that animals on the high-fat regimen were more susceptible to ecstasy-induced hyperthermia.

The fatty diet appears to raise blood levels of free fatty acids, which are known to affect body temperature regulation, according to the researchers.

In earlier research, Sprague and his colleagues had found that a muscle protein called uncoupling protein (UCP) appears key in the hyperthermic response to ecstasy. Mice that don’t have the protein don’t overheat.

Free fatty acids help regulate UCP activity, which may explain why a high-fat diet increased animals’ vulnerability to ecstasy-induced overheating in this study.

The findings do not suggest, however, that ecstasy users who follow a low-fat diet need not worry, Sprague told Reuters Health.

“One important variable that could trigger a hyperthermic response from ecstasy abuse is your diet,” he said. On the other hand, the researcher added, body-temperature regulation is a complex process that involves many factors other than dietary fat.

It’s not clear, Sprague noted, whether having a pre-ecstasy burger and fries might boost the odds of hyperthermia, since the animal study looked at long-term fat intake. But it’s a safe bet that having a salad instead won’t prevent the side effect.

SOURCE: British Journal of Pharmacology, online May 29, 2007.

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