Egyptian priests who ritually served rich foods to the gods — and then ate it themselves — were prone to higher incidents of heart disease. That common sense assumption has now been documented in an article published by The Lancet, a British medical journal (registration is required to read the full article), and described more popularly in the TimesOnline.
Combining new readings of hieroglyphic descriptions of the ceremonies with the CT scans of mummies known to belong to priests, researchers demonstrated that their high-fat diet led to increased evidence of atherosclerosis.
Ancient Egyptians must have thought their gods took a lot of care and feeding, because images of the gods were typically washed, clothed, and offered sumptuous meals three times per day. After the gods mystically soaked up what they wanted of the food, the priests took the “leftovers” home to feed their families. Typical meals included beef, wildfowl, bread, fruit, vegetables, cake, wine, and beer. The diet was loaded with saturated fat, with some items, such as the frequent goose, being especially high in fat. Even items like bread and cake were made with large amounts of ancient lard. Researchers estimated that the priests’ dietary energy intake could have been more than 50 percent fat, with a significant portion of that being saturated.
Doctors currently recommend that one’s daily calories should come from no more than 25-30 percent fat, with less than seven percent of that being saturated fat. Obviously, the priests’ diet was over the top, and their arteries paid the price.
The article suggests that human physiology and response to diet hasn’t changed much in the past three millennia. It also offers a helpful reminder that eating like an imaginary god can make you just as nonexistent.
[Image of priests offering food to the gods from The Art Archive / Egyptian Museum Turin / Dagli Orti]