A recent study sought to determine if modernization, which often correlates with a sedentary lifestyle, is a major contributing factor to obesity and heart disease, the leading cause of death in the United States.
The study centered on the Tsimane, an indigenous population in the lowland’s of Bolivia’s Amazon basin, for whom heart disease is practically non-existent, cholesterol is low and obesity is rare. The Tsimane rarely partake in smoking.
The findings were surprising. The lifestyle of typical Tsimane men proved more active than the average American (particularly due to their labor-intensive jobs), but their physical activity level did not significantly separate them from other developed populations. They were not more vigorously active than athletic Americans.
According to researcher Michael Gurven, professor of anthropology at UC Santa Barbara, that finding was consistent with the theory that excess food intake, not physical activity, is more responsible for the obesity epidemic seen especially in Americans over the past several decades.