Clogged arteries are seen as the quintessential symptom of an unhealthy modern lifestyle. But the condition was common across the ancient world, even among active hunter–gatherers with no access to junk food, a study of mummies has found.
“There’s a belief that if we go back in time, everything’s going to be OK,” says cardiologist Greg Thomas of the University of California, Irvine, a senior member of the study team. “But these mummies still have coronary artery disease.” The paper is published in the current issue of The Lancet1.
The researchers say that they found a level of disease equivalent to that in modern populations — a result Thomas describes as “a shock”.
You are thinking what I thought when reading this post: It's not that surprising because those in the ruling class, those who, like us, had lots of food and drink, where the ones who were mummified. But...
“[The scientists] scanned the common man and woman and they’ve got the same disease,” says Thomas. Rather than excess cholesterol, he suggests that high levels of inflammation — caused by smoke inhalation or chronic infection, for instance — may have triggered the disease in these individuals.
There are two reason why I'm quick to side with these findings: one, if true, they will deal a considerable blow to the adaptive-lag hypothesis that's so popular in the evolutionary psychology world. (Those who agree with the ALH argue that our bodies were made for the wild and difficult Pleistocene environments and not, say, the comforts of the city, which are all new and alien to us.) And two, it might show that at least some of this talk about what is and is not healthy is mere moralizing, a kind of Christianity by other means.