Mummified Heart Disease

When I first started to learn about LCHF and it’s possible positive effect on my health, my girlfriend at the time brought up a fair point. If Ancient Man was healthier than we are today, then why has atherosclerosis been found in Egyptian mummies?

Her thought was that their diet was high in meats. My answer then was, that it is because their diet was rife with grains and honey. I knew this because I am a history buff, however, I never really thought that was unknown knowledge. For many, I have realized it is, even to the extent that history writers have chalked ancient heart disease to meat. I’ll quote one such article, after rattling off risk factors like tobacco smoking and eating processed foods, which she rightfully dismissed due to the inability for Egyptians of the time to indulge in such chemical laden risks, she concluded that it must have been another risk factor… “Egyptians of high social status would have eaten meat, including beef, duck, and goose. I guess this is something to consider on my next trip to the burger joint[1] .”

To be fair, meat was consumed, however, the regularity in which they were consumed is highly suspect. For example, an Inside Science article talks about some carbon evidence what have for what they ate, “…ancient Egyptians were also mainly vegetarians. As is the case with many modern people, their diet was wheat- and barley-based[2.]” Earlier in the article it is also mentioned that “In ancient cultures vegetarianism was much more common, except in nomadic populations. Most sedentary populations ate fruit and vegetables[2.]”

Talk about diametrically opposed views. The first article that was focused on heart disease in egyptian mummies singled out meat like it was a big bag boogeyman, however when you look at an article that focuses of the archaeology you get a totally different view. The sad thing is that all but one of the articles, that were centered around finding heart disease in mummies, linked their high meat consumption to them developing heart disease. The one that did not mention it was a Science Daily article that simply quoted the doctor that was leading the study, he said: “The findings suggest that we may have to look beyond modern risk factors to fully understand the disease[3].” This is a very fair assessment of the data because it is difficult to say what other factors may have afflicted these mummies.

Taking a step back, if you think about it, most mummies that have survived this long are normally more affluent, and were of a higher social status. Which could mean a high amount of stress, for example, if you were Pharaoh there would be an immense amount of stress on you in general, but more so in times of war, famine, or drought.it is hard to replicate that type of stress now, after all, if luck was against you for too long you wouldn’t lose your job you would lose your life. For example, if the crisis went too bad for too long, you may find yourself on the business end of a knife due to a conspiracy, “riot, or possibly another by a sibling willing to be on the throne themselves[4].”

By this point, you may think, “What the heck does this have to do with heart disease or even a health blog!?” Easy, there is a pretty good link to the deleterious effects of stress on the heart[5] that combined with a plethora of other factors could have triggered heart disease. So simply saying “it’s the meat,” or that, “it’s the grains is a misrepresentation of the lack of true evidence we have. Because from the written record, architecture, mummies or anything else we are only working on guesses we will never definitely know what triggered the plaques.

In closing, I used to think it was as cut and dry, I had even pointed my finger at their grain and honey consumption, however now that I know so much more about the other risk factors of heart disease. Coupled with not knowing what other environmental factors that could have been in play.

Resources:

[1]: https://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/heart-disease-found-in-ancient-egyptian-mummies-20144500

[2]: https://www.insidescience.org/news/what-did-ancient-egyptians-really-eat

[3]: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/11/091117161017.htm

[4]: https://www.quora.com/Were-many-Egyptian-pharaohs-murdered

[5]: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2633295/#idm139829632829696title

 

 

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