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18 May 2011
Inside science

An Egyptian mummy has created a medical stir – but will it upset all those trendy theories about cholesterol. The story is at www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/05/110517121824.htm and revolves around the mummy of Ahmose-Meyet-Amen, an 18th dynasty princess. She died of heart disease as a result of atherosclerosis – hardening of the arteries. If she had lived in the modern world she would have required a by pass operation. It is assumed she lived on a diet rich in vegetables, fruit, bread, meat etc – but there would have been no nasty transfats, tobacco, or processed foods as in the modern diet, the root of all evil in the mind of medical science consensus. Atherosclerosis was evident in a number of mummies of middle aged and older Egyptians which seems to indicate it was a fairly common occurrence – but like nowadays, some people lived to be octogenarians, or even older. The idea heart disease is a modern phenomenon has taken a knock – and the idea it is caused solely by bad diet may have limited the research into heart disease. Naturally, one stance was to fall back on 'its in our genes' suggesting it was hereditary among some people. It is also suggested she might have eaten much better than the lower classes, scoffing lots of cheese, butter, and meat. Modern medical science does indicate that by not smoking, having a lower blood pressure and lower cholesterol the calcification of arteries is delayed. Humans may actually be predisposed to atherosclerosis.

While this is not catastrophic in nature and medical science is not in the remit of SIS it does appear to show how science sometimes works and how a big idea takes over and little ideas are sidelined. Hence, all the emphasis is on cholesteroal levels when in fact there might well be another unknown modifying bogeyman lurking out of sight and not being addressed. The same might stand for cancer research – but it is certainly true of AGW pontification. The minor trace gas C02 has been blamed and the role of the Sun is downgraded – which smacks of obsessions. 

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