The Hunza: the eastern tribe of eternal youth

In northern Pakistan, over a thousand meters above sea level and between mountains covered with glaciers, live the hunzakuts, called “hunza” in Western countries.

Not only do these people look more like Caucasians than the rest of the country, but they are credited with something they have given to hundreds of articles over several decades: the tendency to live over 110 years and reach old age in very good health.

Moreover, the first stories to reach the West about the Huns point out that the possible explanation for their good health did not lie in their biology, but in their habits. The fact that the Hunza maintain a vegetarian diet provided a clue: “we are what we eat”. Would it be possible to extend our lives of so many decades by changing our behavior?

Hunza: an oasis of youth

The valley of the Hunza River, located in a territory difficult to access and isolated from its surroundings by the high mountains, presents the characteristics that any romantic can associate with Eden. A natural and little explored territory, primitive peoples live there according to traditions, far from the production machines and processed foods of technologically advanced societies.

In fact, the Hunza would descend from soldiers of the army of Alexander the Great that they got lost crossing the land and created a society isolated from others; this would explain why the language they speak cannot be linked to any of the great linguistic families of Asia.

We therefore have everything to please: a charming natural setting, an origin that tells us about Westerners re-educating themselves to be reconciled with nature, a vegetarian diet (and therefore more culturally linked to “goodness” than that in which eats meat ) and unprecedented levels of health. Or at least it would be if it weren’t for the fact that attributing extreme longevity to hunza is a myth based on various coincidences.

In fact, none of the beliefs that passed from mouth to mouth and article to article had a scientific basis: the people of eternal youth was a myth born of exaggeration and misunderstanding.

The exaggerations and myths about this tribe

The tribes living in the Hunza River Valley were not free from guilt in popularizing their ability to hold on to youth and age so slowly. John Clark, a researcher who lived with these people for several years, noted that how the Hunzakuts attribute themselves to age has not so much to do with the time since birth as with their level of wisdom. This is why the most respected elderly people can say that they are 145 years old: in their cultural context, it is completely normal and does not cause any strangeness.

Outraged, it should also be remembered that the Hunza myth had an impact on their societies. For several decades, they have been able to take advantage of this myth, which leads them to continue to spread the exaggerations themselves.

And what about the diet?

The Hunzakuts follow two types of diet: one related to the summer and the other related to the winter months. In general, both are mostly unprocessed vegetables and the occasional dairy. Moreover, given the lifestyle they follow, which is not too dependent on the use of advanced technology, even the elderly maintain habits in which exercise is common. Also, since they are generally Muslim, they avoid alcoholic drinks and replace them with tea..

In short, it is a society in which many characteristics of what we would call “a healthy lifestyle” are given and which, moreover, can attract many followers of the paleodiet. this has led some researchers, as did Sir Robert McCarrison in the 1920s, to attribute surprisingly good digestive health to the hunzakuts.

Contrary to what happened at the beginning of the 20th century, however, today the state of health of the people of the Hunza River Valley is well known, and it has been recognized that the hunzakuts have as many diseases as the rest of the surrounding population. In fact, we even know a lot about their genetics: everything indicates that it is not even true that they are the descendants of Balkan settlers. What a desappointment!

Longevity, questioning

Despite all this, nutritionists point out that many aspects of the hunzakut diet are better than most Western diets: no foods high in sugar, hardly any red meat, lots of vegetables, and of course a combination of all of that with physical exercise. Take note.

Leave a Comment