What Causes Heart Attacks?

On the latest episode of the excellent TV show Mad Men, which takes place in 1960, a man who has just had a heart attack says, “Did everything they told me. Drank the cream. Ate the butter.” A humorous comment on how ideas change. Now, of course, many people — possibly including the screenwriter — think eating cream and butter causes heart attacks. After a year studying omega-3s, I’m sure it wasn’t the amount of fat that caused the high-fat diet/heart attack correlation, it was the type of fat (low in omega-3). Cream and butter would have been fine if the cows’ food contained plenty of omega-3.

For decades we’ve been told that cream and butter and other animal fats “clog your arteries”. It’s like a well-known experiment with split-brain patients. The patient chooses a card based on what he sees on a screen. The two hemispheres see different things. In one particular trial, the right hemisphere saw a picture of snow on the screen and picked out a card with a picture of a shovel. The left hemisphere saw a chicken claw. The left hemisphere controls speech. When the patient was asked to explain the choice, he said, “You need a shovel to clean out the chicken coop.” This happened again and again: The left hemisphere did not know why a card had been chosen but rather than saying “I don’t know” it confidently made up an explanation. Keep this in mind the next time you hear an explanation.

Studies to see if omega-3 supplementation reduces heart attacks have had ambiguous results, as Marion Nestle said. Why am I so sure that lack of omega-3 is the problem? (So sure that I no longer worry about my cholesterol.) 1. There is lots of evidence that heart attacks are due to inflammation. 2. There is lots of evidence that omega-3 fats are anti-inflammatory. 3. Eskimos had very low rates of heart disease and ate a diet high in omega-3 fats. 4. Many studies have correlated heart attack risk with gum disease. 5. My self-experimentation showed beyond any doubt that omega-3 supplementation makes the brain work better. It also showed what effective dosages are. 6. When Tyler Cowen took an effective dose, his gum disease quickly disappeared. Everyone — everyone who thinks about this stuff — knows #1-#4. It is #5 and #6 that are new and complete the chain of reasoning. I believe #6 is as meaningful as the observation that scurvy is quickly cured by lime juice.

In the 1930s, a dentist named Weston Price went all over the world looking at people’s gums. He wanted to compare modern diets with traditional diets. When his subjects ate a modern diet, he found gum disease. When they ate a traditional diet, their gums were fine even when they never brushed their teeth. In a few cases, such as an isolated group of Swiss mountain people, the traditional diets contained lots of butter and cream — from grass-fed cows. My gums vastly improved after I started taking good amounts of omega-3 (via flaxseed oil). After I reread Weston Price recently, I stopped being so careful about flossing and brushing. It hasn’t made a difference. In the past, my gums would bleed when I flossed unless I flossed daily. Now I floss rarely but they don’t bleed. I’m sure my whole circulatory system is in better shape.

16 Replies to “What Causes Heart Attacks?”

  1. In that episode, he thought it was the ulcer that was going to kill him. I believe that was why he was eating the cream and butter.

  2. Seth — how can the antioxidants rich Omega- 5 oil help in this situation? would you recommend that we consume pomegranate seed oil to boost the system and protect the body against heart attacks. These is some research out there that shows that Omega – oil has interesting cardio elements, I’d suggest you check it out.

    The Omega- 5 oil is sold in gel caps as well as in bottles. From my expereicne, people prefer the soft gel caps.


  3. You are on the right track. Omega 3 is critical in preventing heart attack. The low fat diet is a failed experiment which has caused us to be overloaded with Omega 6 from vegetable oils (mostly soy).Omega 6 promotes inflammation, Omega 3 reduces inflammation. Infalammation causes heart attack! Having been a heart surgeon for 30 years I have seen it and touched it. My new book The Cure for Heart Disease gives all the details.

  4. Omega 3s reduce inflammation, but carbs increase inflammation.

    Seth, you’ve got to read Gary Taubes’ new book, an analysis of diet propaganda over the last fifty years. You will love it, and it would be fantastic to hear your take on it.

  5. So I guess it might be beneficial for those on the SLD to switch to flaxseed oil and plug their nose.

    I currently take both canola oil (for the SLD) and flaxseed oil (for general health purposes).

    Because Canola oil has a poor ratio between omega 3 and 6, could it be diminishing the results from my flaxseed intake?

    Flaxseed oil appears to hit 2 birds with one stone.

  6. I’ve been doing 2T deflavorized coconut oil during the day, and 2T flax (non-lignans, holding my nose) at night.

    Seth, do you now prefer the version with lignans? Seems to me there was some issue with the lignans…something estrogenic about them, perhaps? I might be confusing that with soy…

  7. That was it; thanks. But I’ll keep my testosterone, and pass on the breast tissue.

    BTW, prostate cancer is one of the slowest-developing cancers there is; many elderly men have it (undiagnosed) for years before dying of other causes.

    The ones who have it treated (prostates removed) will often have worse outcomes (impotence, incontinence.)

  8. Yes, and the omega 5 oil [ pomegrnate seed il ] has been researched in the context of prostate cancer. You ought to review the reserach in the areas of antioxidants, ani inflammaiton, prostate cancer, and breast cancer to name a few.

    The other day, I was told that Omega 5 could be helpful in minor cases of skin cancer.

    Have you had any experience with pomegranate seed oil?

    The ladies are excited because it is a natural SPF and helps as an anti-aging / cellulite agent, I do not think that fish oil can do that, but again, I am not a scientist or physician.

    You may want to look into Omega -5 oil. I am taking a daily dose of Omega 5, it is boosting my system and my skin looks younger.


  9. It’s a myth that eskimos have low-rates of heart disease. Actually, recent studies have shown they have high rates of cardiovascular disease (50% higher than western populations) despite diets that are very high in fatty fish.

  10. I didn’t know it was a myth, anyway just posting to say i take omega pill too and except the awefull taste of fish i indeed look younger too! But the main benefit is that i have cardiovascular problems from weed and i m pretty sure (all the doctors i’ve seen told so) that it benefit the heart of healthy people, and those at high risk of cardiovascular disease.

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