Education

Craving a Heart Attack!

Do you crave breads, pastas, and sweets, – especially when you are under pressure? Too many refined carbs, along with too much stress, may be instigating heart disease for you – not the fat you are eating.

In paradigm-shattering research, Thomas Cowan argues in his newly-released Human Heart, Cosmic Heart, that fats are vital to heart function. Being an endurance muscle more than a sprinter, your heart relies on long-burning fats for fuel as opposed to flash-energy sugars.

Cowan reveals that not all heart attacks are accompanied by ruptured plaques, which have been incorrectly correlated with high-fat diets. But all heart attacks ARE preceded by a reduction of parasympathetic activity. You recognize the parasympathetic response as the rest-and-digest arm of the autonomic nervous system. The other half of the autonomic nervous system, of course, is the sympathetic response, which under a perceived threat, puts the body into flight-or-flight. It is characterized by dry mouth, dilated pupils, rapid pulse, shallow breathing, and inhibited colon function.

According to Cowan, chronic stress, followed by an acute traumatic event or physical exertion, causes heart attacks because of increased adrenaline production.

You may recall that adrenaline spurs glycolysis – the converting of stored sugars into ready fuel for an immediate dash to safety.  Under chronic stress, adrenaline is continuously being released. When an acute trigger erupts, even the heart is forced into glycolysis.

“This redirects the metabolism of the heart away from its preferred and most efficient fuel sources, ketones and fatty acids,“ Cowan notes.

What happens next is a cascade of misfortune. Lactic acid builds up in the heart, just the same as it would in your calf muscles if you were fleeing a charging bull. This state of acidosis prevents calcium from entering the individual cells. Since calcium is needed for muscle contraction, your heart is unable to beat as forcefully. Edema – fluid retention – sets in. The combination of edema and acidosis deprives the cell of its nutrients and the tissue begins to die. You experience a heart attack. Thus, stress is to blame.

This is not to say that you can ignore plaque build-up in your arteries. Here is where a high-carb diet is implicated. Too many carbohydrates force your body into producing excess insulin to lower blood sugars away from diabetic levels. In another tragic cascade, high insulin causes insulin resistance. That, in turn,  precipitates high blood sugar levels. These out-of-control blood sugars instigate fluid retention, high blood pressure, and inflammation. In response to inflammation degrading the blood vessel in critical places, your body responds with a “plaster cast” of plaque to shore up the vessel wall. Thus, plaque actually indicates too many sugars, rather than too much fat.

Cowan’s solution to heart disease is to de-stress and reduce inflammation. He recommends parasympathetic activities such as walking barefoot, getting out in nature, and nurturing positive relationships. His diet plan includes traditional fats, such as coconut oil, butter, and ghee rather than refined vegetable oils.

Fat Burner vs. Sugar Burner

  • Do you feel either wired or tired after eating?
  • Do you need to snack between meals to keep your energy up?
  • Do you hit a wall during work-outs?
  • Does your energy fluctuate dramatically during the day, often leaving you flat?
  • Do you experience strong food cravings?

If you answered yes to any number of these, chances are your body is primarily using glucose rather than fatty acids for fuel.

A fat burner feels no rise or slump in energy after meals, can go long hours without food – even fasting with ease intermittently – and has sustained endurance during prolonged workouts. Further, a fat-burner has level energy from sun-up to sun-down and does not experience compelling food cravings.

Not only does being a sugar-burner make you feel miserable, it also damages your health. Here’s a brief physiology lesson. Every cell produces energy to carry on life. The process of converting fuel to energy is called the Krebs cycle. Acetyl coenzyme A is a necessary molecule for the Krebs cycle. The breakdown of glucose to form pyruvate is one way to make this molecule, but it can also be created if fatty acids go through a process called beta oxidation.

You don’t need to remember that. The important point is that the body’s preferred pathway is beta oxidation because it requires one less step and produces 33% more energy.  

So if the body wants to burn fats, why are you burning sugars??? Because the fats aren’t accessible! Enter insulin. This is a masterfully-designed hormone that performs its labor well, which is to carry glucose to various parts of the body – the brain for immediate use, the liver for conversion to glycogen, the muscles for quick bursts of energy, and to adipose (fat) tissue for long-term storage.

When you eat a meal that is roughly 1/3 protein, 1/3 fat and 1/3 carbohydrate calorically, the sugars from the carbohydrates will enter the bloodstream at a nominal rate, and you will be able to utilize them as they are made available. But if you double the amount of carbohydrates, and halve the protein and fat content, sugars surge into the bloodstream.

Humans were never designed for such high loads of glucose, which wreak havoc if blood levels remain chronically high. There is a sudden emergency to lower blood sugar. The body can’t possibly use all that glucose at once for energy, so it releases a deluge of insulin to compensate. Insulin whisks the glucose into storage and prohibits fat stores from being mobilized. Your cells are left to burn only glucose.

One solution to the sugar burner metabolism is to adjust your ratios of carbs, fats and proteins. The next time your body sends a signal in the form of a craving that it needs energy, feed it something that will counter an insulin spike and initiate a fat burn.