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September 25 2012

In Bolivian Amazon, a Yardstick for Modern Health


SANTA MARÍA, Bolivia There seems to be little that distinguishes the indigenous Tsimane of northern Bolivia from dozens of other native Amazonian peoples. They still live in small communities, fishing daily, hunting and relying on subsistence farming. They remain relatively isolated from the outside world. They still have large families and fall victim to parasites, worms and infectious diseases. And until a decade ago, few had contact with doctors.

Research on the Tsimane led to the finding in 2009 that cardiovascular disease is probably an ill of modern societies. Studies of the group also provided the most conclusive data supporting the idea that high levels of physical activity drastically reduce the risk of diabetes, obesity and hypertension.

Ongoing Tsimane research explores links between testosterone and infection, diet and the nutritional value of breast milk, and DNA and life span.

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