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Diets From Roman Gladiators to Present


From left, a disarmed and surrendering retiarius and his secutor opponent, a thraex and murmillo,

a hoplhus and murmillo (who is signaling his surrender), and the referee (Zliten mosaic, 200 AD); Wikipedia


Around 250 BC, Roman gladiators ate a mostly 1) ___ diet and drank ashes after training as a tonic. These are the findings of anthropological investigations carried out on bones of warriors found during excavations in the ancient city of Ephesos. Historic sources report that gladiators had their own diet. This comprised beans and grains. Contemporary reports referred to them as “hordearii“ (“barley eaters“).




Roman Gladiator Mosaic 5th Century Palace in what is now, Turkey; Wikipedia


In a study by the Department of Forensic Medicine at the MedUni Vienna in cooperation with the Department of Anthropology at the Institute of Forensic Medicine at the University of Bern, bones were examined from a gladiator cemetery uncovered in 1993 which dates back to the 2nd or 3rd century BCE in the then Roman city of Ephesos (now in modern-day Turkey). At the time, Ephesos was the capital of the Roman province of Asia and had over 200,000 inhabitants. Using spectroscopy, stable isotope ratios (carbon, nitrogen and sulphur) were investigated in the collagen of the bones, along with the ratio of strontium to calcium in the bone mineral. The result shows that gladiators mostly ate a vegetarian diet. There is virtually no difference in terms of nutrition from the local “normal population.“ Meals consisted primarily of grain and 2) __-free meals. The word “barley eater“ relates in this case to the fact that gladiators were probably given grain of an inferior quality.


Build-Up Drink Following Physical Exertion

The difference between gladiators and the normal population is highly significant in terms of the amount of strontium measured in their bones. This leads to the conclusion that the gladiators had a higher intake of minerals from a strontium-rich source of calcium. The ash drink quoted in literature probably really did exist. “Plant ashes were evidently consumed to fortify the body after physical exertion and to promote better bone healing,“ explains study leader Fabian Kanz from the Department of Forensic Medicine at the MedUni Vienna. “Things were similar then to what we do today — we take magnesium and calcium (in the form of effervescent tablets, for example) following physical exertion.“ 3) ___ is essential for bone building and usually occurs primarily in milk products. A further research project is looking at the migration of gladiators, who often came from different parts of the Roman Empire to Ephesos. The researchers are hoping that comparison of the bone data from gladiators with that of the local fauna will yield a number of differences.







Roman Gladiators with Net and Trident; 79 CE


Source: Medical University of Vienna; Sandra L?sch, Negahnaz Moghaddam, Karl Grossschmidt, Daniele U. Risser, Fabian Kanz. Stable Isotope and Trace Element Studies on Gladiators and Contemporary Romans from Ephesus (Turkey, 2nd and 3rd Ct. AD) – Implications for Differences in DietPLoS ONE, October 15, 2014


What’s Next in 2015 Diets: Chili Peppers?




Chili Peppers Growing in Thailand; Wikipedia


Chili peppers have been a part of the human diet in the Americas since at least 7500 BC. The most recent research shows that chili peppers were domesticated more than 6000 years ago in Mexico, in the region that extends across southern Puebla and northern Oaxaca to southeastern Veracruz, and were one of the first self-pollinating crops cultivated in Mexico, Central and parts of South America. Christopher Columbus was one of the first Europeans to encounter them (by then they were in the Caribbean), and called them “peppers“ because they, like black and white pepper of the Piper genus known in Europe, have a spicy hot taste.




Peppers each day, keep obesity away. Credit: Thyagarajan


There may be hope for 2015 dieters in those fiery little Native American fruits, chili peppers. Now we come full circle from Columbus to 2015, where a large percentage of the world’s population — fully one third, by the World Health Organization’s estimates — is currently overweight or 4) ___. These staggering statistics have made finding ways to address obesity a top priority for many scientists around the globe, and now a group of researchers at the University of Wyoming has found promise in the potential of capsaicin — the chief ingredient in chili peppers — as a diet-based supplement. The temptation to eat fatty foods is often so strong that, for many, it can override or overpower any dietary restrictions. As a solution to this problem, a group of researchers at the University of Wyoming developed a novel approach to stimulate energy 5) ___ — without the need to restrict calorie intake.


During the Biophysical Society’s 59th Annual Meeting in Baltimore, Md., Feb. 7-11, 2015, the researchers from the laboratory of Dr. Baskaran Thyagarajan, University ofWyoming described how dietary capsaicin may stimulate thermogenesis and energy burning by activating its receptors, which are expressed in white and 6) ___ fat cells. This may help to prevent and manage obesity and other related health complications such as Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and cardiovascular diseases — though this effect has not yet been demonstrated in carefully-controlled clinical trials. “Obesity is caused by an imbalance between calorie intake and energy dissipation,“ explained Vivek Krishnan, a graduate student working in Baskaran Thyagarajan’s laboratory at the University of Wyoming’s School of Pharmacy — a research group known as “Baskilab.“ “In our bodies, white fat cells store 7) ___ and brown fat cells serve as thermogenic (heat produced by burning fat) machinery to burn stored fat. Eating calorie-rich food and a lack of physical activity cause an imbalance in metabolism that leads to obesity.“ While pursuing a strategy for obesity management, our group’s laboratory data revealed that “dietary capsaicin — a chief ‘agonist’ (initiator of a response) of transient receptor potential vanilloid 1 (TRPV1) channel protein — suppresses high-fat-diet-induced obesity,“ Krishnan said. Baskilab has found that high-fat-diet obesity and dietary capsaicin — 0.01 percent of capsaicin in the total high fat diet — prevented high-fat-diet-induced 8) ___ gain in trials with wild type mice, but not in mice that genetically lacked TRPV1. Further, dietary capsaicin didn’t modify food or water intake in these mice, “although it did significantly increase the metabolic activity and energy expenditure in wild type mice fed a high-fat diet, “but not for mice that genetically lack TRPV1“ Krishnan noted. So, Baskilab’s overarching hypothesis is that dietary capsaicin induces browning of 9) ___ adipose tissue and stimulates thermogenesis to counteract obesity. “The main goal of our work is to expand the knowledge of the mechanism by which capsaicin antagonizes obesity, as well as to advance the proof of principle of the anti-obesity potential of dietary capsaicin. Next, we’ll focus on our longer-term goal of developing TRPV1 agonists as new drug molecules to prevent and treat obesity,“ said researchers from Baskilab.


Developing a natural dietary supplement as a strategy to combat obesity can be easily advanced to human clinical trials, according to the researchers. “We envision a nanoparticle-based, sustained-release formulation of 10) ___, which is currently under development in our laboratory,“ added researchers from Baskilab. “In turn, this will advance a novel dietary supplement-based approach to prevent and treat one of the life-threatening diseases, obesity and its associated complications — in humans.“ The group’s strategy to counteract obesity is expected to form a major focus of future healthcare priorities for both the National Institutes of Health and Department of Defense. Baskilab has already submitted a patent application for the drug delivery aspect of the discovery. Sources: Biophysical Society; The University of Wyoming; “What’s next in diets: Chili peppers?.“ ScienceDaily, 8 February 2015.


ANSWERS: vegetarian; 2) meat-; 3) Calcium; 4) obese; 5) metabolism; 6) brown; 7) energy; 8) weight; 9) white; 10) capsaicin




Dried chili peppers; Wikipedia


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