Want a healthy brain as you age? We have a lot to learn from the indigenous people living in the Amazon…
The Tsimane indigenous people of the Bolivian Amazon caught the world’s attention in 2017 because of their extraordinary heart health. And now? It looks like their brains are pretty incredible too.
Researchers at the University of Southern California enrolled 746 Tsimane adults, aged 40-94. In order to get brain scans, they provided transportation from the remote Amazon where these people live to the nearest town with a CT scanner. The journey was 2 days long with travel by road and river!
The study looked at brain volumes at different ages and compared the results to people living in the US and Europe. Here’s what they found:
👉 The decrease in brain size with age was 70% less for the Tsimane people than for people living in industrialized areas of the US and Europe 👈
This is great news for the Tsimane because brain shrinkage is associated with developing dementia.
Another interesting finding was that the Tsimana had higher levels of systemic inflammation than people in the US and Europe, but it did not affect their brains and was there for different reasons.
- For the Tsimane, their inflammation was because of respiratory, gastrointestinal, or parasitic infections.
- For the people in the US and Europe, their inflammation was because of obesity and metabolic causes.
What can we learn from this study?
It appears that the indigenous lifestyle of hunting, gathering, fishing, and farming has vast benefits for the heart and the brain. Even if we cannot revert to this sort of lifestyle ourselves, we can remember to stay active and take time outdoors to reconnect with nature and support our health.
We can also do everything within our power to maintain a healthy metabolism and weight. This will reduce inflammation in our body and support both heart and brain health as we age.
Want a personalized assessment of your metabolic health and a plan to optimize it? Call our office to find out how we can help! In the meantime, here are some things you can do to reduce inflammation:
❤️ Avoid processed food, eat whole foods instead (processed foods contain a lot of chemicals that can be pro-inflammatory)
❤️ Eat colorful vegetables which are rich in polyphenols (they reduce inflammation)
❤️ Eat more omega 3’s and omega 9’s (nuts, avocados, seed oils)
❤️ Address your stress: stress is a killer! Look for ways to reduce your stress!
❤️ Get active! Exercise does wonders for our physical and mental wellbeing!
❤️ Self-care!!!! Do things to take care of YOU!
Irimia A, Chaudhari NN, Robles DJ et al. The indigenous South American Tsimane exhibit relatively modest decrease in brain volume with age despite high systemic inflammation. J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci. 2021. [link]