The current dietary treatment of long-chain fatty acid oxidation defects (high carbohydrate with medium-even-chain triglycerides and reduced amounts of long-chain fats) fails, in many cases, to prevent cardiomyopathy, rhabdomyolysis, and muscle weakness. We hypothesized that the apparent defect in energy production results from a depletion of the catalytic intermediates of the citric acid cycle via leakage through cell membranes (cataplerosis). We further hypothesized that replacing dietary medium-even-chain fatty acids (precursors of acetyl-CoA) by medium-odd-chain fatty acids (precursors of acetyl-CoA and anaplerotic propionyl-CoA) would restore energy production and improve cardiac and skeletal muscle function. We fed subjects with long-chain defects a controlled diet in which the fat component was switched from medium-even-chain triglycerides to triheptanoin. In three patients with very-long-chain acyl-CoA dehydrogenase deficiency, this treatment led rapidly to clinical improvement that included the permanent disappearance of chronic cardiomyopathy, rhabdomyolysis, and muscle weakness (for more than 2 years in one child), and of rhabdomyolysis and weakness in the others. There was no evidence of propionyl overload in these patients. The treatment has been well tolerated for up to 26 months and opens new avenues for the management of patients with mitochondrial fat oxidation disorders.
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