Tag Archives: Chapel Hill

Mummies and Fast Food and Clogged Arteries

The following study shoots down many of today’s theories with the discovery that clogged arteries existed 3,500 years ago.
Clogged arteries show up everywhere, even thousands of years ago.

What does the National Bank of Egypt in Cairo, Siemens Healthcare in Florsheim, Germany, and St. Luke’s Hospital Foundation in Kansas City, MO have in common? They supported the study showing the recent discovery of 3,500-year-old mummies with clogged arteries and not a Big Mac or Fries in sight.

So far as I know, no fast food restaurant existed 3,500 years ago, so who do we blame and tax now for making present day America a nation of obese, tubby folks?
Big Macs, French fries and fast food restaurants are not to blame, folks…they were not even a twinkle in someone’s eye 3,500 years ago.

Randall Thompson, MD … “”I tell my patients that I think these ancient Egyptians had a genetic hand-me-down as my patients do,” Thompson said, “that we have to look beyond traditional risk factors to explain atherosclerosis.”

Randall Thompson, MD from Mid America Heart Institute, Kansas City, MO made the surprising report at the American Heart Association meeting in Orlando and in the November 2009 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Of the 16 mummies housed in the Egyptian National Museum of Antiquities in Cairo that had vascular tissue available for CT examination, nine had probable or definite evidence of calcification in the arteries.

“The calcification in these arteries looks just like it does in modern humans,” Thompson said.

Co-author L. Samuel Wann, MD, of Wisconsin Heart Hospital in Milwaukee, said it was surprising the mummies had calcification at all.
“We would have thought that atherosclerosis and heart disease is a disease of modern man, a disease of McDonald’s, if you will.”

The oldest mummy to have the finding — Lady Rai, nursemaid to Queen Ahmose Nefertari — lived between 1570 and 1530 BC.

Although ancient Egyptians did not smoke tobacco or eat processed foods, and likely didn’t lead sedentary lives, the researchers said, they were not a society of hunter-gatherers.
“Agriculture was well established in ancient Egypt and meat consumption appears to have been common among those of high social status,” they said.
Additionally, Thompson said, the ancient Egyptians salted their food for preservation, and so they may have had a high salt diet.

Commenting on the study, Sidney Smith, MD, of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, said, “Food other than that which comes in packages can also do us in.”
“The study emphasizes the importance of understanding dietary and environmental factors that may cause coronary disease,” said Smith, an AHA spokesperson.

On the other hand, the development of atherosclerosis could be at least partially hard-wired in humans.
“I tell my patients that I think these ancient Egyptians had a genetic hand-me-down as my patients do,” Thompson said, “that we have to look beyond traditional risk factors to explain atherosclerosis.”
He said this helps his patients get past some of the guilt and denial about their condition.

The idea for the study came from a visit to the museum by two of the study authors. They noticed that the descriptive plate next to one of the mummies — Pharaoh Merneptah — said he had had atherosclerosis.
The researchers didn’t believe that there would be any way of knowing that, Thompson said.

So a team of Egyptologists, preservationists, and imaging experts used six-slice computed X-ray tomography to examine 22 mummies, selected because they were in good condition.

They dated from 1981 BC to 334 AD. Of the 16 for which social status could be determined, all were from a high social class. They were either members of the pharaoh’s court or priests and priestesses.
Evidence of vascular tissue was found in only 16; four had an intact heart.

Definite atherosclerosis — defined as calcification in the wall of a clearly identifiable artery — was present in five of the mummies. Probable atherosclerosis — defined as calcification along the expected course of an artery — was found in another four.

Atherosclerosis was significantly more common in the mummies estimated to be at least 45 when they died (87% versus 25%, P=0.029), but it was equally likely in men and women.

“While the presence of calcification does not demonstrate that atherosclerosis was a common cause of clinically manifest disease or death,” the researchers said, “it does provide evidence that humans in ancient times had the genetic predisposition and environment to promote the development of promote the development of atherosclerosis.”

More later… Sharon O’Hara