The World’s Healthiest Hearts Belong To The Tsimane People Of Bolivia

A carbohydrate-rich diet of rice, plantain, manioc, and beans is partly responsible. REDAV/Shutterstock

Because the study was observational, the researchers can’t confirm how the Tsimane people are protected or which part of their lifestyle – the subsistence diet of a hunter-forager-horticulturist, the increased physical activity, or the almost total lack of smoking – is most responsible, although they suspect it is down to lifestyle and not genetics. As towns expand and roads are built, the researchers want to carry on studying the effect the encroaching exposure will have on the communities' lifestyles. 

The results are illuminating, and although they are not suggesting a worldwide return to a hunter-gatherer lifestyle, the researchers are suggesting there are aspects of this lifestyle that could benefit more sedentary populations. 

"This study suggests that coronary atherosclerosis could be avoided if people adopted some elements of the Tsimane lifestyle, such as keeping their LDL cholesterol, blood pressure and blood sugar very low, not smoking and being physically active," said senior author Dr Gregory S. Thomas. "Most of the Tsimane are able to live their entire life without developing any coronary atherosclerosis. This has never been seen in any prior research. While difficult to achieve in the industrialized world, we can adopt some aspects of their lifestyle to potentially forestall a condition we thought would eventually affect almost all of us."

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