Dr. Harcombe on the Tsimane study and why carbs are not the answer to improved heart health


Should you eat like the Tsimane?

Is a high-carb diet and intense exercise the secret behind the “healthiest hearts in the world”? This is what the media reported after a study of the Tsimane people in the Bolivian Amazon:

The Guardian: Tsimané of the Bolivian Amazon have world’s healthiest hearts, says study

However, it’s impossible to know what in their lifestyle causes heart health. It’s an enormously common mistake to use imperfect food questionnaires and correlate them with health data, drawing big conclusions.

This kind of suggestive statistical correlation – even in the best case scenarios – has been shown to be wrong 80% of the time! And yet it’s treated as fact in the media.

This is basically the main reason that the whole nutrition field has been such a disaster zone for decades, with high-carb guidelines marking the start of the obesity and diabetes epidemics.

Here’s some sanity, as Dr. Zoe Harcombe analyses the study and what it actually proves:

Heart disease is a disease of civilisation and that’s pretty much it. Industrialised people can do some helpful things to minimise heart disease (don’t smoke, be active and live outdoors near the equator).

However, there is a world of difference between the lifestyle of remote tribal people and Wall Street bankers. If you think eating several hundred calories of even unrefined carbohydrates, without being active for approximately 6 hours a day, will help, even without addressing the numerous and significant other stresses and exposures of modern life, you’re in for a disappointment at best and diabetes at worst.

Dr. Zoe Harcombe: South American Tribe & Heart Disease


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  1. J. Lance De Foa, MD
    Did they measure fasting glucose and fasting insulin and calculate any HOMA2-IR scores? My guess is the Bolivians mostly would score <5.5 mmol/L and 21-50 pmol/L (or at least less than their age), respectively. That is to say, the lack of hypertension, atherosclerosis, obesity and hyperinsulinemic diabetes mellitus would be due to an absence of insulin resistance.
  2. Angelo
    They are more than likely eating whole unprocessed foods, not the engineered poison that may Americans consume.

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