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28 May, 2021 10:30

Indigenous Amazonian tribes could show us the way to fight off effects of aging

Indigenous Amazonian tribes could show us the way to fight off effects of aging

Researchers in California who compared the Amazon's indigenous Tsimane people with Westerners, have found that an active lifestyle could provide the solution to reducing the risk of dementia or other diseases caused by aging. 

The group’s study of 746 members of the indigenous tribe’s 16,000-strong population found that, despite having little or no access to healthcare, their psychically active lifestyle and diet, comprising vegetable, fish and lean meat, has meant their brains age 70% slower than Westerners'.

Comparing brain scans of the Tsimane tribe with three Western populations in the United States and Europe, researchers found that the indigenous groups’ brain atrophy, which is linked with the risk of cognitive impairment, was significantly less than those in the West. The findings suggest that following the tribe’s lifestyle could lead to less likelihood of suffering functional decline and dementia.

“The Tsimane have provided us with an amazing natural experiment on the potentially detrimental effects of modern lifestyles on our health,” the author of the study, Andrei Irimia, said in a statement.

These findings suggest that brain atrophy may be slowed substantially by the same lifestyle factors associated with very low risk of heart disease.

Issuing a warning to individuals in Western nations, the study’s author highlighted how their “sedentary lifestyle and diet rich in sugars and fats” is “making us more vulnerable to diseases such as Alzheimers.” 

While Tsimane men and women can experience high levels of inflammation that could result in a damaging impact on the brain, the low cardiovascular risk the tribe members have due to their active lifestyle outweighs the threat to their brains. 

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This is the second study to be conducted with the Tsimane tribe, finding that their active lifestyle keeps them healthy into their older years, the earlier findings having focused on the effect of their lifestyle on their hearts. Now, scientists have shown that their active lives show that there is a path to intervening earlier and combating the risk of functional decline, allowing all to improve brain health.

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