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Updated December 18th, 2023 at 22:02 IST

Black Death: New study reveals link between plague and modern junk food cravings

The dietary and hygienic changes that people underwent as a result of the Black Plague could be the reason why human beings are so fond of junk food 700 years.

Digital Desk
Junk Food
The dietary and hygienic changes that people underwent as a result of the Black Plague could be the reason why human beings are so fond of junk food 700 years. | Image:Unsplash
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The dietary and hygienic changes that people underwent as a result of the Black Plague could be the reason why human beings are so fond of junk food 700 years later, scientists say. Those changes occurred because the disease, which wiped out 60% of Europe in the 1300s, dramatically altered the bacteria found in our mouths, according to new research. The study has been published in the journal Nature Microbiology, where scientists from Penn State University researched calcified dental plaque from skeletons that they discovered. Professor Laura Weyrich and her team uncovered the teeth of 235 people who were buried in England and Scotland from around 2200 BC to 1835 AD.

Fact about the Balck Plague 

Here are some revelations of the study:

  • Researchers found 954 microbial species of bacteria in the samples, many falling under the genus Streptococcus, a common type of bacteria in humans' mouths today.
  • Another genus, Methanobrevibacter, was discovered, a pathogen considered nonexistent in healthy people.
  • Professor Laura Weyrich stated that modern microbiomes are linked to chronic diseases like obesity, cardiovascular disease, and poor mental health.
  • Uncovering the origins of these microbial communities may help in understanding and managing these diseases.
  • The bacteria found in the skeletons' dental fragments were connected to low-fiber, high-carbohydrate diets—additives commonly seen in fast food.
  • The Black Death triggered the resurgence of these microbes, linked to immune, heart, and brain diseases.
  • The plague caused painful ailments such as fever, vomiting, fatigue, and swelling.
  • Survivors of the Plague in the Middle Ages, who were wealthier, had higher incomes and could afford higher-calorie and more indulgent foods that weren't available to peasants and the masses.
  • The Plague possibly triggered changes in people's diets that influenced the composition of their oral microbiome.
  • This is the first time anyone has shown that the microbes in our body may have been influenced by things like past pandemics, Professor Weyrich noted.
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Published December 18th, 2023 at 22:02 IST

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