Neolithic Humans Had Atherosclerosis

A fascinating new study 1 reveals that Neolithic 2 humans were just as likely to suffer from atherosclerosis 3  because of their high-fat diet as are modern humans.

The Iceman, also known known as Ötzi 4 (pronounced Oetzi) was discovered in 1991 in the Austrian Ötztal Alps 5 . Since then, he’s been preserved in a frozen state. The above study recently used cutting-edge technologies to analyse the contents of his stomach and arteries. They discovered that his last meal consisted of around 50% saturated fat. The researchers’ conclusions were, therefore, not surprising:

…the intake of animal adipose tissue fat has a strong correlation with increased risk of coronary artery disease 6 . A high saturated fats diet raises cholesterol levels in the blood, which in turn can lead to atherosclerosis. Importantly, computed tomography scans of the Iceman showed major calcifications in arteria and the aorta indicating an already advanced atherosclerotic disease state. 7 ”

Joe’s comments

Whilst it’s pretty obvious that if this man lived in the mountains (where there would likely be a scarcity of protein and fat from plant sources), then he would have needed to consume as much animal fat and protein as possible in order to maintain his energy levels. Most of us these days, with our relative ease of access to a wider range of food products, can’t use this as a reason for eating unhealthy quantities of protein and fat from animal sources.

In any case, it appears that Paleo proponents might do well to bear in mind the fate of the Iceman before claiming it’s a good thing to eat like our ancestors did – albeit that the Iceman seems to be the exception rather than the rule to what our ancient ancestors actually ate 8 .

Indeed, we don’t even need to look back in history to see the terrible effects of high animal protein/fat intake; all we have to do is look at research on the health status of Eskimos to see the damage that this diet does to arteries 9 , and the damage this causes to our bodies is even passed down to the next two generations, to our children and grandchildren 10 .


  1. The Iceman’s Last Meal Consisted of Fat, Wild Meat, and Cereals. Current Biology. July 12, 2018. Frank Maixmer et al. []
  2. Neolithic []
  3. Atherosclerosis []
  4. Ötzi []
  5. Ötztal Alps []
  6. Dietary Fats and Cardiovascular Disease: A Presidential Advisory From the American Heart Association.
    Sacks, F.M., Lichtenstein, A.H., Wu, J.H.Y., Appel, L.J., Creager, M.A., Kris-Etherton, P.M., Miller, M., Rimm, E.B., Rudel, L.L., Robinson, J.G…., and American Heart Association.Circulation. 2017; 136: e1–e23. []
  7. The iceman: discovery and imaging. Murphy, W.A. Jr., Nedden Dz, Dz., Gostner, P., Knapp, R., Recheis, W., and Seidler, H. Radiology. 2003; 226: 614–629. []
  8. Original Palaeolithic Diets – Meat or Plants? []
  9. The Eskimo Myth. Written By Michael Greger M.D. FACLM on July 12th, 2018. []
  10. Our Grandchildren Suffer From Our Meat Consumption []