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What can we learn from the Hunter-Gatherer?

Comment by Paul Leeson, EACPR Exercise, Basic and Translational Research Section together with Esther Davis and Adam Lewandowski

Effects of Hunter-Gatherer Subsistence Mode on Arterial Distensibility in Cameroonian Pygmies
D. Lemogoum et al.
Hypertension 2012; Advance online publication


There is a Cameroonian proverb that says ‘He who asks questions cannot avoid the answers’.
The question that Lemogoum et al. asked was: in genetically similar Cameroonian subjects do environmental factors alter vascular parameters? They studied the pulse wave velocity and augmentation index of 20 pygmies who maintain a traditional hunter-gatherer lifestyle in the dense forests in the South of Cameroon.  They compared these results to those of 20 second generation migrated pygmies who live a more sedentary semi-urbanised lifestyle, and a group of Bantou Farmers in the same region.  Both of the comparison groups consume diets higher in salt and have higher rates of cigarette usage and alcohol consumption than the hunter-gather population as well as unfavourable lipid profiles and body sizes.

The unavoidable answer was that a traditional hunter-gatherer lifestyle has a favourable impact on vascular stiffness. Furthermore, it blunted the effect of aging and blood pressure on arterial structure and function.
As economic factors mean a hunter-gatherer lifestyle is now largely of historical interest for the vast majority of the world the next question is: can we contextualise the findings for our modern lifestyles?