Almost 85 percent of Tsimane people have no signs of clogged arteraries, a condition that drastically increase the risk of heart disease
An indigenous South American tribe has healthiest hearts of any population in the world, according to a new study.
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The Tsimane people living in Bolivian Amazon barely had signs of clogged up arteries even in the old age. Clogged artery is the buildup of fatty materials inside the arteries which dramatically increase the risk of heart attack. Thanks in part to their unique diet, Tsimane people are five times less likely to have blocked arteries compared to the people in United States. They also have lower heart rates, blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar levels than rest of the world.
The diet of these indigenous South Americans is based on low-fat, fiber-rich food and includes freshwater fish, non-processed rice, plantain, manioc root, corn and meat of tapir and capybara (the largest rodent in the world).
72% of their calories come from carbohydrates compared with 52% in US. Only 14% of their diet constitutes of fat which is considerably lower (34%) than US diet.
Moreover, Tsimane people live an active life as they spend most of their daytime in fishing, farming and hunting in the rainforest of Amazon. Their lifestyle is similar to that of human civilization thousands of years ago and it is contributing to their heart health.
“Our study shows that the Tsimane indigenous South Americans have the lowest prevalence of coronary atherosclerosis of any population yet studied,” said co-author Professor Hillard Kaplan from University of New Mexico. “Their lifestyle suggests that a diet low in saturated fats and high in non-processed fiber-rich carbohydrates, along with wild game and fish, not smoking and being active throughout the day could help prevent hardening in the arteries of the heart.”
The study was conducted in 85 remote Tsimane villages between 2014 and 2015. To determine Tsimane's risk of heart disease, researchers took CT scans of the hearts of more than 700 adults aged 40 to 94. Researchers also measured their weight, heart rate, blood pressure, cholesterol and blood glucose levels to determine their overall heart health.
Researchers found that almost nine in the ten of Tsimane people had no risk of heart disease. Only 20 people or 3% had moderate or high risk. By comparsion, a US study of more than 6,000 people found that only 14% of Americans had no risk of heart disease while a staggering 50% had a moderate or high risk. The condition continued even in the old age. Researchers estimate that an 80-year old Tsimane had the same vascular age as an American in his or her mid-50s.
Tsimane people have the lowest reported levels of vascular aging of any population yet studied.
Researchers admit that it is not possible for modern people to follow this seemingly ancient diet and lifestyle. However, some of those aspects could be incorporated into our lives to reduce the risk of heart disease which contributes to most deaths worldwide.
“This study suggests that coronary atherosclerosis could be avoided if people adopted some elements of Tsimane lifestyle, such as keeping their LDL cholesterol, blood pressure and blood sugar very low, not smoking and being physically active,” said Dr .Gregory S. Thomas from Long Beach Memorial Medical Centre.
“Most of the Tsimane are able to live their entire life without developing any coronary atherosclerosis. This has never seen in any prior research. While difficult to achieve in industrialized world, we can adopt some aspects of their lifestyle to potentially forestall a condition we thought would eventually effect almost all of us.”