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