Iceman Suffered From Clogged Arteries

Humans suffered from clogged arteries before junk food, cigarettes, and sitting on a couch all day

Scientists have been working on analyzing a 5,300-year-old mummy, found in 1991 in Italy’s Ötztal Alps, and surprise surprise, they've discovered that the iceman had clogged arteries.

The mummy, known as Ötzi, was apparently lactose intolerant, dealt with parasites and cavities, and was at risk for arteriosclerosis (although a head injury killed him).

The lactose intolerance isn't surprising (humans were just beginning to domesticate animals and eat dairy products when he was alive), but Ötzi's clogged arteries were surprising to researchers.

"[Arterioscelrosis] is typically thought to be a modern, so-called 'civilization disease,'" project leader Albert Zink wrote. "With Ötzi we now know that the mutations already occurred more than 5,000 years ago."

Since coronary heart disease seems to predate potato chips and couch potatoes, heart health may be based more on genetics than diet, making heart disease more difficult to prevent. Bad news all around, we fear.

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Just to further elucidate the lack of research that went into this (and many other recent articles trying to debunk Paleo diet science), Otzi did not die of a head injury, as the author purports. He died of a lesion in his subclavian artery that was caused by an arrow. Here's a link to that info:

Please do your research.

Coby's picture

Also, I've seen nothing to prove Iceman had actual clogged arteries. He may have had only a genetic predisposition to heart disease. From National Geographic:

"DNA analysis also revealed several genetic variants that placed the Iceman at high risk for hardening of the arteries..."

Not all genes express themselves. Nothing from the Iceman study proves that the predisposition cannot be overcome with diet and exercise.


But Ötzi was not paleo! He was a grain eating Neolithic. The paleo era ended about 10,000 years ago. As you state, Ötzi is 5,300 years old.

Jessica Chou's picture

Thanks for your comment. You're right, the Paleolithic era ended around 11,700 BC. We will correct the text.

GaryH's picture

Jessica, get your facts straight.

"Iceman Had Bad Teeth: The 5,300-year-old mummy suffered from cavities, possibly brought on by a high-carb diet."

SlimHealthyMama's picture

I think your article is a little misleading. You mention that "humans were just beginning to domesticate animals and eat dairy products when he was alive" - the production of cereal grains was also happening then as well - having started in the Near East 10000 years ago and moving to Europe around 5000 years ago. This is exactly the time that poor health started to appear - in the transition from paleolithic eating to neolithic (modern day grains and legumes) eating.

So your article doesn't prove anything bad about Paleo eating - more a pointer to the detrimental effects of modern agricultural practices and the introduction of grains into the diet.

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