Multi-system physiological dysregulation and ageing in a subsistence population: Physiological aging in perspective

Thomas S. Kraft, Jonathan Stieglitz, Benjamin C. Trumble, Angela R. Garcia, Hillard Kaplan, Michael Gurven

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Humans have the longest post-reproductive lifespans and lowest rates of actuarial ageing among primates. Understanding the links between slow actuarial ageing and physiological change is critical for improving the human 'healthspan'. Physiological dysregulation may be a key feature of ageing in industrialized populations with high burdens of chronic 'diseases of civilization', but little is known about age trajectories of physiological condition in subsistence populations with limited access to public health infrastructure. To better characterize human physiological dysregulation, we examined age trajectories of 40 biomarkers spanning the immune (n = 13 biomarkers), cardiometabolic (n = 14), musculoskeletal (n = 6) and other (n = 7) systems among Tsimane forager-horticulturalists of the Bolivian Amazon using mixed cross-sectional and longitudinal data (n = 22 115 observations). We characterized age-related changes using a multi-system statistical index of physiological dysregulation (Mahalanobis distance; D m) that increases with age in both humans and other primates. Although individual biomarkers showed varied age profiles, we found a robust increase in age-related dysregulation for Tsimane (β = 0.17-0.18) that was marginally faster than that reported for an industrialized Western sample (β = 0.14-0.16), but slower than that of other non-human primates. We found minimal sex differences in the pace or average level of dysregulation for Tsimane. Our findings highlight some conserved patterns of physiological dysregulation in humans, consistent with the notion that somatic ageing exhibits species-typical patterns, despite cross-cultural variation in environmental exposures, lifestyles and mortality. This article is part of the theme issue 'Evolution of the primate ageing process'.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number20190610
JournalPhilosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1811
StatePublished - Nov 1 2020


  • Tsimane
  • ageing
  • longevity
  • physiological dysregulation
  • subsistence

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)


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