British scientists have found that cancer is nearly non-existant in Egyptian mummies ( http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-1320507/Cancer-purely-man-say-scientists-finding-trace-disease-Egyptian-mummies.html ). They conclude that cancer is a man-made, industrial age phenomenon, likely caused by pollution and poor diet. However, they did find evidence of hardening of the arteries and brittle bones in the mummies. Have these scientists mis- or over-interpreted their findings? What are the selection biases in mummification? Since ancient Egypt was an agricultural society, is it true that vascular diseases and osteoporosis are by-products of agriculture, while cancer is a truly modern condition? What is the paleo perspective on these findings?
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Limiting omega 6s to about 4% of calories may prevent 90% of cancers. See this randomized trial (Lyon diet) which basically found 90% reductions in cancer (after the first 2 years) among those eating a 4% PUFA diet as compared to controls on the AMA Heart diet: http://archinte.ama-assn.org/cgi/content/full/158/11/1181
Likewise vit D may prevent 75% of cancers. Google Lappe and vitamin D and cancer to see the randomized trial.
Vit K may also prevent 75% of cancers. http://www.plosmedicine.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pmed.0050196
So, if ancient neolithic people didn't eat vegetable oils (which they didn't) and got more sun (which they did) and ate foods richer in vit K (which they probably did), you might expect them to have vanishingly low rates of cancer (which it turns out maybe they did).
Heart disease is caused by (i) too much PUFAs, (ii) loo much fructose, and/or (iii) too little copper and other minerals. Ancient neolithic eaters may have run into some trouble on (ii) and (iii), so they still got some cardiovascular disease (but not as much as we do).
Mostly, however, they died in childhood or from poor sanitation or from germs. Luckily, (i) we can mostly avoid these infectious and/or childhood deaths, (ii) we definitely can limit PUFAs, (iii) we easily can get adequate vit D, vit K, and minerals (like copper), and (iv) can definitely avoid excess fructose. So, basically, you can avoid the major causes of death, provided you start while you're still healthy.
Well, looking at their diet as follows: "The ancient Egyptian's diet consisted of a vast amount of grains, fish, vegetables, and fruits. They enjoyed beef and other red meats very much, but the common people could not afford them. The arid land made it very hard to raise grazing animals such as cows, therefore, beef was very expensive and only eaten at special banquets. The primary food of their diet was grain, because it could be used for many different purposes." THey also ate fish although the upper class seemed to eat more red meat. And they also ate honey and sugar and beer.
So they certainly were not paleo eaters. Still, it was probably a lot healthier than the current SAD. Processing was probably minimal and they had less chemicals and no hydrogenated oils, no grain oils, no GMO, no high fructose corn syrup and no fake foods in general. Plus the upper classes liked meat!
I don't know much about their grain preparation procedures but research suggests they did allow at least some of their wheat to sprout before being processed into bread: http://www.thefreelibrary.com/Ancient+bread+rises+in+gourmet+status-a018545034 This old school wheat, sprouted, and possibly allowed to slow rise into bread (unlike current fast rise unsprouted bread) would have cut down a fair amount on the toxins in the wheat. So you would expect a healthier product if prepared this way.
In Protein Power, the Eades' devote part of a chapter to the ancient Egyptians, who were
afflicted with with rotten teeth and severe atherosclerosis, suffering from elevated blood pressure and dying in their thirties with heart attacks.
but they say nothing about cancer.
Because of the increasing evidence that cancer feeds on sugar, and that a ketogenic diet can stop the growth of tumours, I would have to guess that cancer flourishes under a poor diet, but perhaps requires more than that.
Not up to date on the cancer-related findings but i remember reading in two places that several Egyptian mummies have shown evidence for bad teeth and something akin to diabetes. Of course, mummified remains are prolly from a small segment of their population (elite, rich, affluent, blahblah).