Beware the Dangers of Eating Yourself to Death

For those of you who did not exercise a great deal of self control during your Thanksgiving meal and whose mouths may already be watering at the thought of the leftovers in the refrigerator, think again. Before dishing up a heaping serving of holiday delights, heed the lessons of some famous folks whose appetites earned them an early grave.

Adolf Frederick

Adolf Frederick, King of Sweden, died of digestion problems on February 12, 1771. He spent his final hours consuming a meal of lobster, caviar, sauerkraut, smoked herring and champagne, topped off with 14 servings of his favorite dessert: semla served in a bowl of hot milk.

Adolf Frederick is now best remembered by Swedish schoolchildren with the dubious distinction of being “the king who ate himself to death.”

Alexander the Great

It was June of 323 B.C. Alexander the Great had a lot to celebrate. He had, after all, conquered the known world. If that doesn’t call for a feast, what does?

According to Plutarch, after spending the night enjoying a magnificent feast, the king was ready to call it a night. On his way to bed, however, a friend invited him to another feast.

All told, Alexander filled two days with eating and drinking, barely getting any sleep. He stopped only because he got very sick. a full night of feasting, he was on his way to bed when he ran into a friend of his who invited him to another feast! All in all, Alexander ate and drank for two days straight, barely sleeping, and only stopping because he fell ill. He was dead less than two weeks later.

Historian Diodorus gives a different account, stating that Alexander fell ill after gulping down a large bowl of unmixed wine. Eleven days thereafter, he was gone.

Regardless of which account is correct, Alexander probably spent his final hours seriously regretting his gluttony.

Zachary Taylor

Zachary Taylor, the twelfth President of the United States was enjoying an Independence Day celebration and the dedication of the Washington Monument on July 4, 1850. It was a hot day, and the President refreshed himself with copious servings of iced milk and cherries. He took to his bed shortly thereafter, feeling decidedly under the weather.

He died five days later of gastroenteritis.

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Despite what you may have learned from the movie Amadeus, Mozart was not murdered by rival composer Antonio Salieri. What probably killed the great musical genius was an overdose of pork chops.

A study in 2006 reviewed a letter written by Mozart shortly before his death. In it, he mentioned eating a lot of pork chops and described the symptoms of the sickness that set upon him thereafter. The author of the study speculated that Mozart’s death was caused by trichinosis, a deadly disease caused by worms in undercooked pork.

Henry I

Henry I, King of England from 1100-1135, had quite an appreciation for the lamprey served to him for dinner one evening. The record reflect that he called for his plate to be refilled multiple times.

He immediately developed severe abdominal pains that ended only with his death.

William Makepeace Thackery

Author William Makepeace Thackeray was no stranger to overeating. He was famously gluttonous and had a particular affinity for spicy food.

He died on Christmas Eve, 1863, the day after polishing off a particularly-large meal. While the official cause of death was a stroke, it unquestionably was triggered by a lifetime of poor dietary discipline.

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