The food of the gods in Ancient Egypt was more likely to guarantee an early grave than immortality, scientists have discovered.
Delicious and bountiful banquets offered to the gods and eaten by Egyptian priests and their families were laden with artery-clogging saturated fat, research shows.
The evidence comes from hieroglyphic inscriptions on temple walls and the priests' mummified remains - which bear the unmistakable signs of damaged arteries and heart disease.
Sumptuous meals of beef, wild fowl, bread, fruit, vegetables, cake, wine and beer were given up to the gods three times a day.
After making their offerings at the temple, the priests would adopt a ''shame to let it go to waste'' policy and take them back home to their families.
Professor Rosalie David, from the University of Manchester's Faculty of Life Sciences, who led the study, said: ''There couldn't be a more evocative message: live like a god and you will pay with your health.
''It also shows that blocked arteries caused by rich diets are not just a modern malaise - the problem goes back to ancient civilisations.''
Experts carried out a new translation of hieroglyphs in Egyptian temples to reveal the offerings menu.
The inscriptions described the rituals performed and how the priests afterwards shared the food with their families.
Much of what they ate was rich in saturated fat and would be classified today as ''junk food''.
Goose, which was commonly consumed, provided 63% of its energy from fat, 20% of it saturated.
In addition, the priests ate a type of bread fortified with fat, milk and eggs and bursting with calories, while cakes were typically made with animal fat or oil.
Salt intake was likely to have been high, since it was often used as a preservative, said the researchers writing in The Lancet medical journal.
Consumption of alcohol, known to increase levels of triglyceride blood fats, is thought to have exceeded today's recommendations.
The rich fare was markedly different from the frugal, mostly vegetarian diet of ordinary Egyptians.
Mummified remains of the priests show high levels of calcified hardened deposits on the walls of arteries - clear signs of atherosclerosis, the narrowing of diseased blood vessels.
Co-author Professor Tony Heagerty, a heart expert from the Faculty of Medical and Human Sciences at Manchester, said: ''There is unequivocal evidence to show that atherosclerosis is a disease of ancient times, induced by diet, and that the epidemic of atherosclerosis which began in the 20th century is nothing more than history revisiting us.''
The Manchester team looked at computed tomography (CT) X-ray scans of 22 mummies of high social status Egyptians.
In 16 of these where hearts or arteries could be identified, nine mummies showed evidence of calcification.
The state of the priests' arteries and hearts may explain why even the ancient Egyptian elite had low life expectancies of 40 to 50 years. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstop ... -diet.html
The beginning of knowledge is the discovery of something we do not understand. - Frank Herbert
Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind. - Albert Einstein
Knowledge is a powerful weapon, but only when its user can wield it.