Why mummy—you re­ally don’t look very well to­day

Modern Healthcare - - Outliers -

When talk­ing up the ben­e­fits of a “Mediter­ranean diet,” the dis­cus­sion usu­ally cen­ters on the cui­sine from coun­tries bor­der­ing the name­sake sea’s north­ern shore—say, Greece or Italy. Ref­er­ences to Egyp­tian menu choices are not com­mon. Sci­en­tists now know why.

Af­ter a team of car­di­ol­o­gists ex­am­ined 20 mum­mies from the Mu­seum of Egyp­tian An­tiq­ui­ties in Cairo with a six-slice Siemens Health­care CT scan­ner and stud­ied the im­ages of two pre­vi­ously scanned mum­mies, they found “def­i­nite ath­er­o­scle­ro­sis” in five of their 16 pa­tients with iden­ti­fi­able car­dio­vas­cu­lar tis­sue, and “prob­a­ble” signs in four more. The in­di­vid­u­als lived be­tween 1981 B.C. and A.D. 334, with the most an­cient show­ing signs of dis­ease be­ing the mummy of Lady Rai, nurse­maid to Queen Am­rose Ne­fer­tari. Ms. Rai died around 1530 B.C., when she was be­tween 30 and 40 years old.

“Al­though an­cient Egyp­tians did not smoke to­bacco or eat pro­cessed food or pre­sum­ably lead seden­tary lives, they were not hunter-gath­er­ers,” the car­di­ol­o­gists wrote in a Jour­nal of the Amer­i­can Med­i­cal As­so­ci­a­tion re­search let­ter. “Agri­cul­ture was well-es­tab­lished in an­cient Egypt, and meat con­sump­tion ap­pears to have been com­mon among those of high so­cial sta­tus.”

In a Siemens news release, re­searcher Gre­gory Thomas, a clin­i­cal pro­fes­sor of car­di­ol­ogy at the Uni­ver­sity of Cal­i­for­nia at Irvine, says, “The find­ings sug­gest we may have to look be­yond mod­ern risk fac­tors to fully un­der­stand the dis­ease.”

In the mean­time, pass the red wine and olive oil.

CT scans show an­cient Egyp­tians had mod­ern heart prob­lems.

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