A Gawk off the Rock: Science Has Found and Studied the Healthiest Hearts in the World

Credit: Michael Gurven
The Tsimane, have the healthiest hearts in the world, and studying those hearts has flipped the lid on what we thought a heart smart diet was.

According to a study in The Lancelet, it’s official: a tribe of hunter-gatherers in Bolivia, known as The Tsimane, have the healthiest hearts in the world, and studying those hearts has flipped the lid on what we thought a heart smart diet was.

The 16,000 Tsimane live, fish, farm, and hunt along the Maniqui river of the Amazon rainforest. In other words, they live like we’re supposed to, and like we did way back when, before buildings replaced forests and farmlands.

The takeaway from the study is that we can’t realistically revert to a hunter-gatherer lifestyle in our concrete jungles, nor can we all plant our own farms and barter with pals, but there are lessons nonetheless we can apply to our human 2.0 lifestyles.

If one wanted to simply mimic their diet, it consists of about 17% wild game, 7% freshwater fishes like piranhas and catfish, a little foraged fruit and nut for snacks, and the majority of the rest of it is family-farm grown rice, maize, plantains, and manioc root.

With that diet, a middle-aged Tsimane person exhibits barely any sign of clogged arteries or risk of heart attack, whereas 25% of Americans at middle age can’t say the same.

If you want to get all nutritionist about it, start eating a diet where 72% of your calories come from carbs, 14% from fat (with very little coming from saturated fats), and 14% from protein (lean protein though — the meat they eat is quite lean).

The exercise they get from all that hunting, farming, and fishing is enough to pump those arteries clear of blockages. Were they wearing fitbits, they clock an average of 16,500 steps a day. Even folks over 60 have a step count of 15,000.

The revolutionary discovery from the study is that they get 72% of their calories from carbs; here in North America, we thought that was a bad thing. Based on this study, a high carb diet, with very little saturated fat and processed foods, should be 2017’s new fad.

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