The Tsimane, a forager-horticulturist group, living in the lowland forests of Bolivia, have the healthiest coronary arteries compared to any population around the world, according to a new study in published in The Lancet.
A group of researchers led by Professor Hillard Kaplan from the University of Mexico conducted a cross-cohort study including all individuals who identified themselves as Tsimane with ages 40 years or older.
Prof. Kaplan’s team analyzed the difference between the Tsimane and 6,814 participants from the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA). They were able to assess coronary atherosclerosis among Tsimane adults using a coronary calcium scoring (CAC) with non-contrast CT scan of the heart.
Coronary atherosclerosis is sometimes called the hardening of the arteries because of plaque build-up.
Prof. Kaplan’s team visited 85 Tsimane villages between July 2, 2014, and September 10, 2015. They collected data from 705 Tsimane adults.
The researchers found that 596 (85%) out of 705 Tsimane adults had no CAC, 89 (13%) had CAC scores of 1-100, and 20 (3%) had CAC score higher than 100.
They also found that older Tsimane individuals with ages older than 75 years, 31 (65%) have a CAC score of zero and only 4 (8%) had CAC scores of 1oo or more.
The data showed The Tsimane people “have the lowest reported levels of coronary artery disease of any population recorded to date.
Tsimane lifestyle helps prevent heart disease
Based on their findings, Prof. Kaplan’s team concluded that most people could prevent coronary atherosclerosis by achieving a very low LDL, low blood pressure, low glucose, normal body-mass index, no smoking, and plenty of physical activity.
Prof. Kaplan said, “The lifestyle of the Tsimane people 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 loss of subsistence diets and lifestyles could be classed as a new risk factor for vascular aging, and we believe that components of this way of life could benefit contemporary sedentary populations,” he added.
The Tsimane diet is mainly composed of foods rich carbohydrates and fiber (72%) including corn, rice, plantain, manioc, nuts, fruits, and protein (14%), which comes from animal meat. Their daily consumption of fat is very low (around 38 grams).
The Tsimane population practices an active lifestyle. Their activities include gathering, hunting, fishing, and farming. They only spend 10% of their daytime being sedentary.
Prof. Kaplan said, “The loss of subsistence diets and lifestyles could be classed as a new risk factor for vascular aging and we believe that components of this way of life could benefit contemporary sedentary populations.”
On the other hand, Prof. Randall Thompson, co-author of the study, noted, “Conventional thinking is that inflammation increases the risk of heart disease. However, the inflammation common to the Tsimane was not associated with increased risk of heart disease, and may instead be the result of high rates of infections.”
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