Scientists discovered that indigenous groups that farm, hunt, and collect in the Amazon had less brain atrophy and better cardiovascular health than those in developed nations.
Only 1% of senior Tsimané and Mosetén individuals have dementia, according to previous research examining dementia incidence among indigenous populations in the Bolivian Amazon. Around 10% of U.S. individuals aged 65 and older have dementia, while another 22% have mild cognitive impairment, according to estimates.
The Tsimané people use hand tools to hunt, fish, and farm. Also, they gather food from the forest. This way of life guarantees that people remain physically active throughout their lives. Although the Mosetén are also farmers, they reside closer to areas with access to medical facilities, schools, and clean water. Experts believe this better lifestyle contributes to the decreased prevalence of dementia in these populations.
To further analyze this, scientists investigated the brain sizes and other health characteristics of adult Tsimané and Mossöten populations. Scientists selected 1,165 Tsimané and Mosetén adults aged 40 to 94 years and organized transportation to a medical institution with CT scanning equipment. Their research was published on March 20 in the journal PNAS.
The research group assessed the participant’s body mass index (BMI), total cholesterol, blood pressure, and other biomarkers of health. Participants also had CT scans to determine the capacity of their brains. Tsimané and Mosetén participants had less brain atrophy and improved cardiovascular health than industrialized Americans and Europeans.
The authors note that the Mosetén populace resides nearer to regions with greater technological and infrastructure development. And while the study indicated that their health was better than that of those in the United States and Europe, it was not as good as that of the Tsimané participants. Finding a balance between exercise and diet may be the key to good brain health throughout the aging process, according to the research team.
In a news release, Hillard Kaplan, a professor who has researched the Tsimané for over two decades, states that “during our evolutionary past, more food and fewer calories expended in acquiring it led to enhanced health, well-being, and eventually greater reproductive success or Darwinian fitness.”
Furthermore, Kaplan notes that “this evolutionary history selected for psychological and physiological features that made us desire more food and less physical labor, and with industrialisation, these traits cause us to overshoot the mark.”
Andrei Irimia, assistant professor at the USC Leonard Davis School of Gerontology and co-corresponding author, adds, “This perfect set of factors for disease prevention invites us to evaluate whether our industrialized lifestyles enhance our disease risk.”
Yet, a person does not need to devote all of their time to hunting, farming, and gathering in order to gain the same benefits discovered by the study. They can instead promote improved brain and heart health as they age by engaging in sufficient physical activity, consuming balanced food, and maintaining a healthy weight.