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Am J Hum Biol. 2010 Nov-Dec;22(6):731-40. doi: 10.1002/ajhb.21074.

Blood lipids, infection, and inflammatory markers in the Tsimane of Bolivia.

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Davis School of Gerontology, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, California 90089, USA.



Little is known about blood cholesterol (blood-C) levels under conditions of infection and limited diet. This study examines blood-C and markers of infection and inflammation in the Tsimane of the Bolivian Amazon, indigenous forager farmers living in conditions that model preindustrial European populations by their short life expectancy, high load of infections and inflammation, and limited diets.


We use multivariate models to determine the relationships between lipid levels and markers of infection and inflammation. Adult Tsimane (N = 418, age 20-84) were characterized for blood lipids, cells, and inflammatory markers in relation to individual loads of parasites and village region.


Most of the Tsimane (60%) carried at least one parasite species, averaging 1.3 species per person. Serum high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C), total cholesterol (total-C), and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C) were below the U.S. norms and varied inversely with markers of infection and inflammation: C-reactive protein (CRP), interleukin-6 (IL-6), erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR), immunoglobulin (Ig) E and eosinophil count. Although no relationship of parasite load to blood-C was found, there was an association between anemia and parasite prevalence.


We conclude that the highly infected environment of the Tsimane is related to low levels of blood total-C, HDL-C, and LDL-C. This may suggest a potential reason why arterial disease is largely absent in the Tsimane.

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