Bolivia's Tsimane have the lowest rates of heart disease ever measured

By Peter Whoriskey
March 17, 02017

A Tsimane father and son hunt fish in a river. (Michael Gurven)
The Tsimane people dwell in thatched huts in a remote corner of Bolivian jungle, and at dinner, the main meal sometimes consists of monkey. Capuchins or howlers. Other days, a hog-nosed coon, or with some luck and a grueling all-day hunt, a man might take a peccary, a kind of wild pig. Some find piranha or catfish in local rivers. For sides, the Tsimane may gather wild fruits and nuts, or harvest small farm plots, where they grow rice, plantains and corn.

Maybe, some will think, all that’s their diet secret.

According to a study published Friday in the Lancet, a peer-reviewed British medical journal, the Tsimane have the lowest rates of heart disease ever measured, and in the United States and parts of Europe where heart disease is the leading cause of death, the news is expected to arouse widespread curiosity and a question: How do they do it?

The Tsimane “have the lowest reported levels of coronary artery disease of any population recorded to date,” according to the paper written by a team of doctors and anthropologists.

The scientists estimated heart disease during examinations of 705 Tsimane, each of whom traveled about two days by boat and road to get to a clinic. There, they underwent sophisticated X-ray scans of their coronary arteries to determine the amount of calcium plaque, a measure of heart disease. On this basis, the Tsimane measured much healthier than any other people studied, including groups from the United States, Europe, Korea and Japan, according to researchers.

read full article