Heart disease among the ancients

Nicholas Bakalar covers a new paper in Lancet showing a high incidence of atherosclerosis in mummies from four ancient populations: “CT Scans Find Vascular Disease in Ancient Mummies”.

Diet and climate varied among these four groups. The Egyptians may have eaten a diet high in saturated fat. The Peruvians farmed corn, potatoes and beans, and they kept domestic animals. Ancestral Pueblans grew corn and hunted rabbits, deer and sheep, while the Aleutian Islanders subsisted on a diet of fish, shellfish, seals, sea otters and whale.
Patients with vascular disease feel guilty for having it, but you shouldnt feel guilty, Dr. Thomas said. Its part of the aging process. If people had it 4,000 years ago and in four different cultures, why wouldnt we get it now?

The headlines around the web are saying that this study shows that a paleo diet did not protect ancient people from heart disease. Well, yeah. There’s no diet that prevents heart disease. We know that pretty well by now. What I wonder is to what extent pathogens or parasites may have influenced heart disease rates in these ancient populations.