We are all Doomed (Mummy CT Edition)

Via the AP:  Study: Even ancient mummies had clogged arteries

Even without modern-day temptations like fast food or cigarettes, people had clogged arteries some 4,000 years ago, according to the biggest-ever hunt for the condition in mummies.

Researchers say that suggests heart disease may be more a natural part of human aging rather than being directly tied to contemporary risk factors like smoking, eating fatty foods and not exercising.

CT scans of 137 mummies showed evidence of atherosclerosis, or hardened arteries, in one third of those examined, including those from ancient people believed to have healthy lifestyles. Atherosclerosis causes heart attacks and strokes. More than half of the mummies were from Egypt while the rest were from Peru, southwest America and the Aleutian islands in Alaska. The mummies were from about 3800 B.C. to 1900 A.D.

Oh, the fatalism of it all.

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Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is a Professor of Political Science and a College of Arts and Sciences Dean. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter


  1. MarkedMan says:

    One thing I’ve learned from hanging out with metabolics (obesity and diabetics) researchers for the past five years: anyone who says they know what causes arteriosclerosis/obesity/diabetes is just blowing smoke. There are group populations at every step of our recorded histories that had the same diets (except the chemicals) as us and don’t suffer the same disease. And human beings have had the same willpower all along.

  2. de stijl says:

    Study: Even ancient mummies had clogged arteries

    I believe the researchers have drawn the wrong conclusion from the evidence.

    Mummies are a subspecies of the Zombie genus: thus their diet primarily consists of BRAAAINS which are chock full of fat and cholesterol.

    Furthermore, Mummies are even slower than the the Slow Zombie subtype. They don’t walk so much as shuffle – taking one slow, small step at a time and then dragging the other foot forward. This provides almost no cardiovascular exercise benefit at all. Other than pawing feebly at the air with one arm (the other being bound to their chest with linen wrappings) and the scant benefit of masticating the aforementioned BRAAAINS, Mummies lead an extraordinarily sedentary existence.

    So rather than this demonstrably false hypothesis that atherosclerosis predates the modern era, I posit that Mummies have clogged arteries precisely because of the fat-rich diet and the paltry amount of cardiovascular exercise associated with the Mummy lifestyle.


  3. Ben says:

    It would be nice if a study like this could put a moment’s hesitation and self-reflection into the minds of the naturalist, processed-foods-are-the-devil health nuts, but who are we kidding.

  4. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Does this mean we are all going to die?

  5. grumpy realist says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: Well, nobody’s found a way of avoiding it…YET (modulo a few rare reported instances unusable for health policy.)

  6. john personna says:


    There is ample evidence that meat eating and cooking were necessary to feed our expanding brains. Raw vegans should at least know that, and know that they are hewing a path only made possible by an industrial infrastructure supplying them with very rare foods. No early human could simultaneously sit under an almond tree and reach out to quinoa and chia.

    Which perhaps leads to the trade-off.

    Does the diet needed to feed our brains ultimately clog our arteries?

  7. john personna says:

    (Maybe those prehumans really needed a Lipitor tree.)

  8. Ben Wolf says:

    Those mummified were typically from social upper-classes, and those classes tended to eat a diet more rich in animal flesh than was common for the bulk of their societies. The data are not being placed in the proper context.

  9. David Johnston says:

    It’s worth noting that the Egyptians were pretty early in the development of a grain based agriculture. The first known records of cancer were from the Egyptians. Plot it out across the past few thousand years and cancer and metabolic disorder has followed agriculture around. There are plenty of examples (but dwindling) of non agriculture based societies that suffer insigificant to zero incidents of cancer and metabolic disorders.

    The healthy diet (lots of fat, no grains, no sugar) may indeed be an unsustainable one for a growing human population. That doesn’t stop me trying. Pass the cream please.