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Amazonian tribe with the ‘healthiest hearts ever studied’ may also hold key to slowing down AGEING

They’re known for having the ‘healthiest hearts ever studied’, but now an Amazonian tribe may also hold the key to slowing down ageing.

The Tsimane indigenous people of the Bolivian Amazon experience less brain atrophy as they age than their American and European peers, researchers have found.

It suggests that sedentary lifestyles and diets rich in fats and sugars could be making people in industrialised nations more vulnerable to Alzheimer’s disease.

By contrast, the 16,000-strong tribe are extremely active, traditionally hunting and foraging for their own food, and consume a high-fibre diet of vegetables, fish and lean meat.

 

The Tsimane tribe, who spend most days hunting, fishing, farming and gathering wild fruits and nuts, experience less brain atrophy as they age than their American and European peers

WHY DO THE TSIMANE PEOPLE HAVE THE ‘HEALTHIEST HEARTS’?

The University of New Mexico, which conducted a 2017 study, reported that the Tsimane had better cardiovascular health than ever has been measured in any other population.

More than 700 people aged over 40 from the Tsimane population were involved in the study. 

Scientists found that almost nine out of ten participants had clear arteries showing no risk of heart disease. 

Almost two thirds of people aged over 75 were nearly risk free and just eight per cent had a moderate-to-high risk level.

One 80-year-old had arteries resembling those of Americans in their mid-fifties.

Tsimane also have low blood pressure.  

The people have extremely healthy arteries thanks to their active lifestyle.

Professor Hillard Kaplan, who led the study, said: ‘Their lifestyle suggests that a diet low in saturated fats and high in non-processed fibre-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.’

‘Our prior work showed that the Tsimane have the healthiest hearts ever studied,’ senior author Professor Michael Gurven, said.

‘The Tsimane have provided us with an amazing natural experiment on the potentially detrimental effects of modern lifestyles on our health,’ said study author Andrei Irimia, an assistant professor of gerontology, neuroscience and biomedical engineering at the USC Leonard Davis School of Gerontology.

‘These findings suggest that brain atrophy may be slowed substantially by the same lifestyle factors associated with very low risk of heart disease.’

Scientists found that the difference in brain volumes between middle age and old age is 70 per cent smaller in Tsimane than in Western populations. 

This suggests that the Tsimane’s brains likely experience far less brain atrophy than Westerners as they age. 

More than 700 people aged 40 to 94 from the tribe’s population were involved in the study.

Researchers found that members of the tribe have high levels of inflammation, which is typically associated with brain atrophy in Westerners, but this does not have a pronounced effect upon Tsimane brains.

The group’s low cardiovascular risks may outweigh their infection-driven inflammatory risk, scientists believe, raising new questions about the causes of dementia. 

One explanation is that, in Westerners, inflammation is associated with obesity and metabolic causes whereas in the Tsimane, it is driven by respiratory, gastrointestinal, and parasitic infections. 

Infectious diseases are the most prominent cause of death among the Tsimane.

‘Our sedentary lifestyle and diet rich in sugars and fats may be accelerating the loss of brain tissue with age and making us more vulnerable to diseases such as Alzheimer’s,’ said study author Hillard Kaplan, a professor of health economics and anthropology at Chapman University who has studied the Tsimane for nearly two decades. 

‘The Tsimane can serve as a baseline for healthy brain ageing.’

Tsimane people have previously been found to have low rates of obesity and type 2 diabetes, as well as healthy blood pressure and cholesterol levels.

This is due in part to their active lifestyle – they spend most of every day hunting, fishing, farming and gathering wild fruits and nuts.

The University of New Mexico, which conducted a 2017 study, reported that the Tsimane had better cardiovascular health than ever has been measured in any other population. 

Scientists found that almost nine out of ten participants had clear arteries showing no risk of heart disease.

Healthy hearts and minds: The Tsimane is a tribe of around 16,000 people living along the banks of the Maniqui River in the Bolivian Amazon

Healthy hearts and minds: The Tsimane is a tribe of around 16,000 people living along the banks of the Maniqui River in the Bolivian Amazon

Scientists found that the difference in brain volumes between middle age and old age is 70 per cent smaller in Tsimane than in Western populations. Pictured, a typical home in the tribe

Scientists found that the difference in brain volumes between middle age and old age is 70 per cent smaller in Tsimane than in Western populations. Pictured, a typical home in the tribe

Almost two thirds of people aged over 75 were nearly risk free and just eight per cent had a moderate-to-high risk level. 

‘This study demonstrates that the Tsimane stand out not only in terms of heart health, but brain health as well,’ Mr Kaplan said. 

‘The findings suggest ample opportunities for interventions to improve brain health, even in populations with high levels of inflammation.’

WHO ARE THE TSIMANE TRIBE? 

The Tsimane is a tribe of around 16,000 people living along the banks of the Maniqui River in the Bolivian Amazon.

Unlike other Amazon tribes, the group has remained isolated from modern society since rejecting the advances of Jesuit missionaries in the late 17th century.

The tribe, comprised of 80 small villages, spread throughout the rainforest, is one of the last groups in the world which survives through foraging, fishing and hunting alone.

They fish using bow and arrow and poisonous vines, hunting with machetes and tracking dogs.

Despite their rugged lifestyle, Tsimane men have a third less testosterone than Western men, but the Bolivian forager-farmers’ testosterone level does not decline with age.

Their stable testosterone levels mean the tribesman rarely suffer from obesity, heart disease and other illnesses linked with older age.

Tsimane women’s breast milk is higher in omega-3 fatty acids, crucial for brain development, than milk produced by Western women.

The average Tsimane family has nine children, though about five per cent die before their first birthday and 15 per cent die before age five.

More than 70 per cent of the Tsimane diet consists of high-fibre carbohydrate including rice, plantain, manioc, corn, nuts and fruits.

The tribespeople eat just 38g of fat a day, 11g of saturated fat and no trans fats.

The Tsiname are traditionally animists, and believe supernatural creatures who live in the forest control their fortunes.

They brew manioc beer in huge vats, a crucial part of social events which bring together families and villages.

They speak Tsimane as their primary language – a language completely distinct from other indigenous groups even a few miles away. But many speak Spanish as well due to recent bilingual education efforts.

The small number of Tsimane living around the town of San Borja own motorcycles and use mobile phones, but further up the Maniqui River the tribes people’s lives are far more traditional.

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk