The Black Death may be the reason we can’t stop eating fast food
The Black Death tragically wiped out 60% of European citizens in the 15th century.
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Scientists say that the dietary and health changes people underwent as a result of the Black Death could be the reason behind humans’ penchant for fast food 700 years later.
The changes came about because the disease, which wiped out 60% of Europe in the 14th century, dramatically changed the bacteria in our mouths, according to new research.
Published in the journal Nature Microbiology, scientists from Pennsylvania State University looked at calcified dental plaque from the skeletons they discovered.
Professor Laura Weyrich and her team discovered the teeth of 235 people buried in England and Scotland from about 2200 BC to 1835 AD.
They found 954 microbial species of bacteria in the samples, many of which fall under the Streptococcus genus.
This is a common type of bacteria that lives in the mouths of humans today.
Another genus of Methanobrevibacter bacteria has also been discovered, a pathogen that is considered not present in healthy people.
“Modern microbiomes are associated with a wide range of chronic diseases, including obesity, cardiovascular disease and poor mental health,” Professor Weirich said in her research.
She continued: “Uncovering the origins of these microbial communities may help understand and manage these diseases.”
Bacteria found in skeletal tooth fragments have also been observed to be associated with low-fiber, high-carbohydrate diets, which are common additives in fast food.
The Black Death appears to have led to a resurgence of these microbes, as viruses have been linked to immune, heart and brain diseases.
The plague caused painful illnesses, such as fever, vomiting, fatigue, and swelling.
Professor Weyrich also explained how people who survived the plague in the Middle Ages were wealthier and had higher incomes.
Thus, these citizens were able to purchase higher-calorie, more enjoyable foods that were not available to the peasants and masses.
“It is possible that (the plague) caused changes in people’s diet, which in turn affected the composition of the microbiome in the mouth,” she said.
“This is the first time anyone has shown that the microbes in our bodies may have been affected by things like previous pandemics,” she noted.