Diseases of affluence are not new; throughout recorded history the wealthier class has been able to afford health-destroying foods, while the peasants only could afford to eat them on holidays.

For many years, Dr. John McDougall has called conditions like heart disease, cancer, and diabetes, “diseases of affluence.” Only the affluent can afford to eat the rich Western diet with lots of animal food, dairy, and refined and processed foods. The peasants of the world who live on potatoes and rice, on the other hand, are lean and healthier in spite of their lower economic status.

Recent evidence confirms this fact. Examination of Egyptian mummies, some of them 3,500 years old, shows that many of them had atherosclerosis. Dr. Randall Thompson of the University of Missouri Kansas City School of Medicine and Dr. Sam Wann from the Wisconsin Heart Hospital presented their findings at the American Heart Association 2009 scientific sessions. They reported that the mummies they examined all had high social status, and many served in the courts of the pharaohs or as priests or priestesses.

“It looks like people 3,000 years ago had the propensity, at least under the circumstances of living in the King’s court, to develop this disease,” said Wann.

The inspiration for this study originated when Dr. Gregory Thomas from the University of California Irvine was touring the Museum of Egyptian Antiquities. According to information on the nameplate of Pharaoh Merenptah, he died at the age of 60 and had atherosclerosis. American and Egyptian researchers found this curious since the traditional medical thought is that heart disease is a modern phenomenon. The researchers decided to examine the mummy using CT technology. A total of 22 mummies eventually were examined, and peripheral vasculature could be found in 16 of them. Of those 16, probable atherosclerosis was present in nine. For those who were 45 years or older at the time of death, atherosclerosis was present in 87%.

Becoming Heart Attack Proof

Thompson and Wann stated that members of the Egyptian upper classes were meat eaters, and their diets would have included cattle, geese, and ducks.

“This disease has been around since the time of Moses; it’s as old as the Pyramids,” said Thompson.

For thousands of years, diets centered on animal foods have made people ill. The only thing that has changed is the number of people afflicted, since more people are able to afford the rich Western diet today than were able to 3,500 years ago.



Adel H. Allam; Randall C. Thompson; L. Samuel Wann; Michael I. Miyamoto; Gregory S. Thomas. “Computed Tomographic Assessment of Atherosclerosis in Ancient Egyptian Mummies.”   JAMA. 2009;302(19):2091-2094.

Subscribe to Naked Food Magazine