An Amazonian tribe has the lowest rates of cardiovascular disease ever measured in a human population. Yet, its members are far from thin.
Tsimane, an indigenous tribe in the Bolivian basin of Bolivia, has the lowest rates of cardiovascular disease ever measured in a human population. According to scientists at the University of California at Santa Barbara (UCSB) who study them, the Tsimane also have a remarkably low prevalence of high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes, although they are far from thin.
High carbohydrate intake
Seeking to understand the factors behind the extraordinary social well-being of the tribe, the team has been collecting data since 2002, through field visits. "Our previous work has shown that the Tsimane have the healthiest hearts ever studied, so there is a lot of interest in understanding why and how," said Michael Gurven, co-director of the Tsimane Health and Life History project and director of the research. "The first obvious question was: what are they eating?"
Through more than 2,500 interviews, the team found that their diet consisted of a high intake of carbohydrates (376-423 g / day) and protein (119-139 g / day), as well as low fat intake (40-46 g / day). The total caloric intake per day was between 2,422 and 2,736 kcal, 64% of which was from complex carbohydrates. Although this figure is in the upper end of the range that we Westerners are used to - 1600 to 2400 kcal / day for adult women and 2000 to 3000 kcal / day for men - researchers point out that the tribe are much less sedentary than the average. To feed, a Tsimane woman harvests rice in her field, created by cutting and burning vegetation in the Amazon jungle.
Plantain, cassava, rice and corn
Dietary diversity has been quite low compared to the diet of an average American. Tsimane are horticulturists who survive on wild foods and crops of plantain, cassava, rice and maize.
The team also revealed that, on average, the Tsimane consume 15.8 grams of more sugar per day and 4.9 ml of more oil per day in 2015 than in 2010. Unfortunately, all signs indicate that Rates of cardiovascular disease and diabetes among Tsimane will soon increase, as their diet becomes closer to that of Bolivians, thanks to better roads and motorized boats.