KATHMANDU — Heart disease, a disease that until now doctors have thought inevitably becomes a risk with age, is the biggest killer in the world. But the Tsimane people of the Bolivian Amazon, do not demonstrate the pattern seen in Western and industrialised societies.
The Tsimane people living in the forests of Bolivia as those with the healthiest arteries found anywhere in the world, according to the study, published in The Lancet journal.
A high carbohydrate diet of rice, plantain, manioc and corn, with a small amount of wild game and fish – plus around six hours’ exercise every day — has given the Tsimané people the healthiest hearts in the world, the study said.
The Tsimane have the lowest reported levels of vascular ageing for any population studied, with rates of coronary atherosclerosis five times lower than in the US, researchers said.
For the study, researchers visited 85 Tsimane villages between 2014 and 2015 and took CT scans of the hearts of about 700 adults between the ages of 40 and 94 to measure the extent of the hardening of the coronary arteries among other metrics.
85 percent of the Tsimane people,based on the CT scans, had no risk of heart disease, 13 percent had low risk and only three per cent had moderate or high risk.
The findings continued into old age, where nearly two-thirds of those over 75 years old had almost no risk of heart disease and only eight percent had moderate or high risk.
“These findings are very significant,” said Randall Thompson, from Saint Luke’s Mid America Heart Institute, who presented the results of the study at American College of Cardiology (ACC) here.
“Put another way, the arteries of the Tsimane are 25-30 years younger than the arteries of sedentary urbanites. The data also show that the Tsimane arteries are aging at a much slower rate,” said Thompson.
Age, smoking, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, physical inactivity, obesity and diabetes, accompanied by the loss of subsistence diets and lifestyles in contemporary society could become a risk factor for heart disease, the research has suggested.
In the Tsimane population, heart rate, blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood glucose were also low, possibly as a result of their lifestyle.
“In cities, we can drive to a fast food restaurant and pick up 2,000 calories without getting out of our car,” said co-author Ben Trumble.
But the Tsimane people spend most of every day hunting, fishing, farming and gathering wild fruits and nuts, and follow a carbohydrate-based diet containing little protein and fat.