On Finding Cholesterol in Egyptian Mummies

Egyptian Mummy, Third Century, from Louvre Museum, by Zubro Copyright © 2002, at Wikimedia (http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Mummy_Louvre.jpg)

Does cholesterol in arteries come from what we eat? How does cholesterol relate to environmental stress? To toxins?

These comments are on a report, “Egyptian Mummies Diagnosed With Clogged Arteries” on NPR’s All Things Considered for 9 April 2011, where I dispute the assumption made by the scientists interviewed here that cholesterol in arteries comes from diet. There is a lot of evidence that it does not and that all cholesterol is produced by the liver in response to environmental stress (coming from the internal environment). I suggest that blood vessel cells make more cholesterol to protect them from the toxins.

Updated: June 20, 2011


Dr. Greg Thomas and a team of scientists thought that if they observed, with a CT scanner, a population of people from an earlier historical period when most were active, ate a variety of fresh foods, and mostly low in fat, and did not consume tobacco, that they would show healthy arteries.  The scientists chose Egyptian mummies because they were bodies with soft parts that were readily available for examination because they came from a privileged population who were unlikely ever to have suffered from starvation.  They were surprised to find evidence of atherosclerosis, and some very severe cases of high cholesterol.

Why Did Egyptians Develop High Cholesterol?

The results of their study demand a different opinion about cholesterol, and one which, I think, explains why these ancient Egyptians developed high cholesterol.  Toxins can cause stress on cell membranes, which, in turn, causes cells to put more cholesterol inside them, thus leading to high amounts of cholesterol, especially collecting in the cardiac arteries and the great arteries leading to the heart. The purpose of cholesterol is to stiffen the cell membranes so that they are protected from adverse environments.  Every college beginning biology course talks about this.  Some textbooks tell you that certain animals have higher cholesterol in the cells of the feet because these animals walk in freezing water at times and need to be protected in that way (probably from the heat shock proteins produced by cells getting too cold).

Cholesterol molecule, from FoodSpace, http://foodspace.wordpress.com/2008/05/30/cholesterol-the-house-with-the-add-ons/

Why doesn’t the liver remove all toxins? Many toxins collect over the years because they do damage to blood vessels and thus can’t get to the liver.  Chemicals can be toxic because of their form or because they contain chemical elements which are toxic to normal physiological processes.  The only way the body can deal with both is to sequester them in bone and other connective tissue.  The problem with this method is that the toxins can start to move around the body if any part of the sequestering system is disrupted by a change in physiological state.  Thus with the accrual, and high risk of disruption as a person gets older, a lot of damage can be done inside the body when they start to move, thus causing more and more demands for cholesterol (which is only made in the liver), causing unchecked, increasing cholesterol. At some point most arteries and veins get so damaged by the moving toxins, they become less effective in moving blood, which eventually causes toxins to pool outside blood vessels and other organs.  Organs start to shut down, and cholesterol gets trapped in these large arteries (See my posting “Using MRT: Removing Toxins and Emotional Trauma“).

Dr. Greg Thomas says that we “know” that high blood pressure, smoking, and inactivity cause high cholesterol.  We know no such thing.  There have been no experiments that show this in humans.  Furthermore, by not controlling for exposure to environmental toxins, we have not determined, even in lab animals (who are exposed to a lot of toxic chemicals in the air of the lab facilities), that any of the above things cause high cholesterol.  Smoking is an environmental toxin which most likely can cause cholesterol, but how many low cholesterol people, who were ever exposed to cigarette smoke, were subjected to cigarette smoke in a controlled experiment, and subsequently developed high cholesterol?

The studies that people claim show “cause” were only associations.  These studies compare people who have no sign of the assigned “risky” behavior with people who show the assigned “risky” behavior in terms of the presence of high blood pressure, smoking, and inactivity levels in each.  “Risky” behavior is thus linked to the dangerous physiological state, but do not “cause” it.  For all we know, the “effect” may be the “cause”.

High cholesterol may induce inactivity simply because the person cannot get the oxygen he/she needs for activity because the cells of the body providing that energy are so damaged.  The brain is going to tell the body to do what it can do to survive for the moment.  It doesn’t see that far into the future, where remaining inactive will reduce muscle size and the readiness state of ligaments, tendons and bones to bear a great load.  It doesn’t see that the person would not be able to run outside of a burning building for safety in the present physiological state.

Now what about those experiments where an inactive person, showing high cholesterol or any of the behaviors associated with a high risk of stroke or heart disease, starts an exercise regimen, usually accompanied by a healthy diet, and then shows reduced cholesterol?  No doubt, diet and exercise are good for you and it enables an otherwise damaged body to get nutrients that it hasn’t been getting all along.  However, exercise alone will start the toxins moving away from pooled areas (which often include joints and blood vessels because of its attraction to the high amounts of calcium and phosphate released there), and will only be a temporary solution.  Cholesterol in that person will then increase when he/she must be inactive for a time  (e.g. job needs, healing from surgery or bad illness). In other words, that person hasn’t gotten rid of the toxin, but will think that exercise lowers cholesterol, leaving out all the steps in the equation that lead to high cholesterol between lack of exercise and increased exercise.

Eating the diet that most doctors recommend, usually in small amounts up to 6 times a day tends to flood the body with all sorts of ions.  Some of these will combine with the toxins and carry them through blood vessels safely to the kidney or colon and/or liver.  The liver will tend to break down the toxin-safe ion complex, thus releasing the toxin again to the body and the cycle continues.

Unfortunately, flooding the body with all different ions may actually make the problem worse, since some will repel the toxin, others attract it and keep it in a local area.  Only about 50% of the body’s fluids are in the blood vascular system at any one time.  If local cells/tissues are damaged, including capillaries, there is a high likelihood that a large amount of fluid never makes it into blood circulation.  It instead circulates within interstitial fluids all over the body, most likely perpetuating the problem.

Detoxification is not a process that has been worked out for most such toxic chemicals (See “Toxins”).  There are extremely painful methods associated with the removal of mercury (chelation therapy) which also works on other heavy metals, but not all.  Many herbal products have been promoted for detoxification, but most  detoxify only the colon.  They work on top of the epithelium, not under it and so they never “enter” the body in reality (inside the lumen of the colon is still “outside” the body). Many are just scams.

Real understanding of which chemicals are toxic to the body has not been reached, since most toxicological tests only check blood, lungs, urine, and sometimes involve biopsy of liver and spleen. They would miss entirely those toxins that do damage to blood vessels and never get into these organs, blood or urine.  Some toxins are not sent to the lungs, although the brain considers that a logical place to dump toxins.  Why? Simply because they do too much damage en route to the lungs, even if they get there via interstitial fluid instead of blood vessels.

For another report on the value of research on mummies, see “Mummies: ‘Visitors From The Past’ Who Can Help Solve Mysteries Today” on All Things Considered for 20 June 2011. For other reports on nutrition, see “Nutrition Reviews”.


Egyptian Mummy, Third Century, from Louvre Museum, by Zubro Copyright © 2002, at Wikimedia

Cholesterol Molecule, from FoodSpace

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