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“Sweating sickness” in Tudor England and other stories

BMJ 2013; 346 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.f686 (Published 06 February 2013) Cite this as: BMJ 2013;346:f686

Thomas Cromwell, Henry VIII’s henchman, woke one day to find his bed sheets damp and his wife warm and flushed. She was dead when he returned from work. Speculation about the cause of this “sweating sickness” included people’s sins, the stars and planets, mysterious vapours, magic spells, and the French. But the sickness was not found in France, and it was unusually more common among rich people than poor people, which made an arthropod borne infection by lice or ticks (prevalent among the wealthy) likely (Hektoen International winter 2013, www.hekint.org/sweating-sickness-liebson.html).

In the wake of epidemiological findings suggesting that multivitamin use increases the risk of death, a meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials of supplements—used for the primary or secondary prevention of a range of diseases—reports more positive news. Among independently living adults (average age 62 years; average duration of supplementation 43 months), …

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