Eating carbs is the new way have the healthiest hearts in the world! At least that’s what the latest research identifies about the Tsimane people in Bolivia. But along with having a carb rich diet, a routine of heavy exercise and good health practices are believed to be responsible for the incredible heart health, the researchers note.
The new study was published in The Lancet and was conducted between July 2014 and September 2015. Scientists tested the tribesmen living in a Bolivian rainforest for coronary artery calcium (CAC), which looks for clogged blood vessels and the likelihood of heart attack. A score between 100-400 generally indicates a high risk of a coronary artery disease. The results from the study:
596 (85%) of 705 Tsimane had no CAC, 89 (13%) had CAC scores of 1–100, and 20 (3%) had CAC scores higher than 100. For individuals older than age 75 years, 31 (65%) Tsimane presented with a CAC score of 0, and only four (8%) had CAC scores of 100 or more, a five-fold lower prevalence than industrialised populations.
Yup, you read that right! 85 percent of the Tsimane subjects have zero chances of a heart disease of any kind, and much of it is attributed to what doctors repeatedly advise us, such as not smoking, not drinking and walking between 16-17,000 steps a day. The Tsimane people were clocked at walking over 15,000 steps even when they were over 60. An average American is believed to walk about 5,000 steps on an average day.
The BBC gives a breakdown of the Tsimane diet:
- 17% of their diet is game including wild pig, tapir and capybara (the world’s largest rodent)
- 7% is freshwater fish including piranha and catfish
- Most of the rest comes from family farms growing rice, maize, manioc root (like sweet potato) and plantains (similar to banana)
- It is topped up with foraged fruit and nuts
- 72% of calories come from carbohydrates compared with 52% in the US
- 14% from fat compared with 34% in the US, Tsimane also consume much less saturated fat
- Both Americans and Tsimane have 14% of calories from protein, but Tsimane have more lean meat
While the huge chunk of carbs doesn’t seem to be having any adverse effect on the Tsimane tribe, professor of anthropology at University of California, Santa Barbara, Michael Gurven attributes other factors to the scores, as he talked to the BBC.
“I would say we need a more holistic approach to physical exercise rather than just at the weekend. The modern world is keeping us alive, but urbanisation and the specialisation of the labour force could be new risk factors [for an unhealthy heart]. The also study notes that the Tsimane have been introduced to motorized canoes and processed food, cholesterol levels have increased.”
A cardiologist at Linnaeus University in Sweden, Dr. Joep Perk summarized the findings for Al Jazeera:
“There’s a tendency to blame your genes for heart problems and what this study shows us is that you can’t blame your parents, just your lifestyle.”