The reason why the Tsimane people are declared the healthiest population as yet measured
is because none have been recorded as having any signs of clogged up arteries, even the most elderly members of the population. This is based on research from Long Beach Memorial medical center in California.
The Tsimane are a small population of hunter-gatherers, with some 16,000 in existence. They spend much of their time hunting, fishing and farming along the Maniqui River in the Amazon rainforest in the Bolivian lowlands. In a sense they live a life similar to the majority of humans a couple of thousand years ago. The Tsimane speak the Tsimane language, which is a Mosetenan language.
To assess heart health, the science team looked at levels of coronary artery calcium, which is a sign of clogged up blood vessels and risk of a heart attack. These levels were low to non-existent, trumping any other group of people including population sections previously regarded as 'very healthy', such as Japanese women
What is the secret of the Tsimane people?
17 percent of the Tsimane diet is made up of game such as wild pig.
7 percent is composed of freshwater fish, including piranha and catfish.
75 percent of the diet is made up of rice, maize, manioc root (such as sweet potato) and plantains, plus some fruit and nuts.
This means most of the calories come from carbohydrates and the fat content is low.
The Tsiamine people are very active. Males average 17,000 steps a day and women 16,000 steps. Many adults spend considerable time on hunts that can last for over eight hours can cover up to 18 kilometers on a quest for wild deer, monkeys or tapir.
As well as the above factors a third area may also contribute and this is currently subject of further research. This relates to intestinal parasites. Parasitic infection is high among the Tsimane people (mainly the parasitic roundworm Ascaris lumbricoides
) and infection may play a role in reducing the effects of the immune systems, controlling inflammation.
Speaking with the BBC
, lead researcher Dr Gregory Thomas adds: "They [the Tsimane] also live in small communities, life is very social and they maintain a positive outlook."
The study into the Tsimane has been published in the medical journal Lancet
, with the research paper titled "Coronary atherosclerosis in indigenous South American Tsimane: a cross-sectional cohort study."