Health Buzz: Ancient Mummies Have Clogged Arteries, Too

Michelle Obama speaks out against childhood obesity; accounting for calories

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Study: CT Scans of Ancient Mummies Show Signs of Heart Disease

Heart disease is often associated with our modern love of bacon cheeseburgers, cigarettes, and sitting through TV marathons. But a study published Sunday in The Lancet suggests the disease may predate all that by several thousand years. Researchers obtained CT scans of 137 mummies whose geographical regions or populations span more than 4,000 years. These "participants" were from Egypt, Peru, southwest America, and the Aleutian Islands of Alaska. Scientists looked in these mummies for atherosclerosis—the buildup of fatty plaque in arteries and currently the most common cause of heart disease. Their findings? Among all regions, 34 percent of the mummies showed signs of definite or probable atherosclerosis. Study leader and Kansas City, Mo. cardiologist Randall Thompson told BBC News: "The fact that we found similar levels of atherosclerosis in all of the different cultures we studied, all of whom had very different lifestyles and diets, suggests that atherosclerosis may have been far more common in the ancient world than previously thought."

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  • Michelle Obama Speaks Out Against Childhood Obesity

    First Lady Michelle Obama isn't afraid to do a little scolding.

    During a keynote address Friday in Washington, D.C., Obama had a message for parents with questionable eating and exercise habits.

    "We as parents are our children's first and best role models, and this is particularly true when it comes to their health," she said, pointing to research that kids with one obese parent are more than twice as likely to become obese as adults. "We can't lie around on the couch eating French fries and candy bars, and expect our kids to eat carrots and run around the block. But too often, that's exactly what we're doing."

    Obama spoke as part of the Partnership for a Healthier America's Building a Healthier Future Summit, a three-day event focused on ways to tackle childhood obesity. She's the honorary chair of the nonprofit, which also works with Wal-Mart, the YMCA, and the U.S. Olympic Committee, to name a few. The PHA is working to reverse sobering statistics: One in three kids in the United States is obese, and another third is overweight. That's worrisome because heavier children are more likely to remain overweight as adults, spiking their odds of diabetes, heart disease, and other conditions. If current patterns don't change, about half of all Americans will be obese by 2030. [Read more: Michelle Obama Speaks Out Against Childhood Obesity]

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    • Accounting for Calories

      One of the more titillating medical stories to make news recently is a study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition indicating that calorie intake in the United States has come down, and obesity rates have not, writes U.S. News blogger David Katz. What makes this titillating, of course, is that it seems to suggest some great new mystery of energy balance. But I think we can account for this finding without revisiting laws of thermodynamics. We can, and we should—because there is real potential danger in abdication. If we don't account for these calories, others will.

      For example, as I was indulging recently in one of my all-too-infrequent guilty pleasures, namely cuddling with my wife and watching American Idol, I was fascinated by Coca-Cola's latest commercial. This ad, brilliantly produced and polished as ever with Coca-Cola, invites us, essentially, not to worry and just be happy with the calories Coca-Cola serves.

      The ad gives us a can of Coke, presumably 12 ounces, providing 140 calories. We are then shown the activities we can "enjoy" to burn up those calories. I trust everyone recognizes the activities are additive—you have to do them all to burn those 140 calories. And I trust those watching reliably do the math and reach the conclusion that it's roughly 37 minutes of physical activity all together. [Read more: Accounting for Calories]