These Villagers Have “The Healthiest Hearts Ever Studied”

We went to their remote town to find out what they eat.

| – How should you eat to protect your heart? The Amazon rainforest may reveal some answers.

The Tsimane (pronounced “chee-mah-nay”) are a population of forager-farmers in Bolivia who, until recently, have had little contact with the outside world. Studies have determined they have an almost non-existent risk of developing heart disease — in contrast to Australia, where it’s one of the leading killers.

“The Tsimane have the healthiest hearts ever studied, so naturally there’s a lot of interest in understanding why and how,” said Michael Gurven, a professor of anthropology at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

“The obvious first contender is, what are they eating? And are they eating what we think is best for heart health?”

For a new paper in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Gurven and his colleagues analyzed the Tsimane diet to tease out its apparent cardiovascular benefits and how it compares to other heart-healthy ways of eating.

Their diet turns out to be pretty high in carbs, which account for 64 percent of their energy intake.

They rely on complex carbohydrates such as plantains, cassava, and rice, which are also high in fiber — their fiber intake is almost double that of the average American (which is about 15g fiber per day, well short of the 30g recommendation).

Protein makes up 21 percent of what they eat, coming mostly from animal sources, particularly fish and wild game; and the remaining 15 percent comes from fat (of that, less than a third is from saturated fat).

The Tsimane consume about 2400 to 2700 calories a day — in Australia, the average adult’s daily energy requirement is a little over 2000.

This high-calorie diet is offset by high levels of physical activity: Tsimane adults average 17,000 steps per day


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