Stomach cancer not arsenic poisoning may have killed Napoleon

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London, Feb 12 (UNI) Napoleon Bonaparte, the famous French emperor and one of the greatest military commanders in history did not die of arsenic poisoning, a new study claims.

In 1961, an elevated level of arsenic was found in Napoleon's hair, inspiring widespread rumours about the cause of his demise.

But the new study has concluded there was no significant increase in arsenic levels in his last years.

After nearly 200 years of debate about what killed the French emperor, researchers at Italy's National Institute of Nuclear Physics (INFN) have examined his hair to shed light on the suggestion that he was poisoned by guards during his exile in Saint Helena, an island in the South Atlantic, following the Battle of Waterloo.

The work provides indirect support for the suggestion that Napoleon died of stomach cancer linked to a poor diet, published in the journal Nature Clinical Practice Gastroenterology by Dr Robert Genta and colleagues. His risk of cancer might have been increased by his diet of salt-preserved foods which lacked in fruits and vegetables.

For the current research, the team of scientists compared samples held by French and Italian museums, dating from when Napoleon was a boy in Corsica; during his exile on the Island of Elba; on the day of his death (May 5, 1821) on the Island of Saint Helena; and the day after his death.

It was found Napoleon's hair had an average arsenic level of around ten parts per million whereas the arsenic level in the hair samples from today was around one tenth of a part per one million.

But the levels in Napoleon's hair were typical of those seen in the people at the beginning of the 19th century which included Napoleon's son also. The arsenic levels when Napoleon was a boy and during his final days in Saint Helena were also similar, as reported by the Daily Telegraph.

Napoleon conquered much of Europe, but was ultimately defeated at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815. The British then exiled him to St Helena. He died on May 5, 1821, at the age of 51.


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