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The Vilcabamba of Ecuador

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Updated January 02, 2009

Where is Vilcabamba?:

Vilcabamba is a small village in Southern Ecuador located in an elevated valley. The Vilcabamba Valley is extremely inaccessible and has therefore been protected from many modern influences such as prepackaged foods and preservatives. Like the Hunza people, the inhabitants of Vilcabamba have made claims to extremely long life, and -- most importantly -- health throughout their entire life.

What Do We Know About Them?:

The people of the Vilcabamba Valley have been poked and prodded by scientists since the mid-1950s. Members of their community have appeared in Ripley's Believe It or Not and have been featured in National Geographic, Reader's Digest and other popular press outlets. The researchers have documented very little chronic illness even for the oldest of the Vilcabamba people.

How Do They Stay Healthy in Old Age?:

An international conference in 1978 concluded that the Vilcabamba remain healthy throughout life due to their:

  • leanness
  • diet
  • low cholesterol
  • high activity level

What Do They Eat?:

Vegetables picked fresh from the garden, eaten the same day. They also eat fruits right off the trees. Whole grains, seeds and nuts are also part of the Vilcabamba diet. There are almost no animal products to be found in their diet and no packaged or preprepared food.

Do They Exercise?:

There is nothing like exercise as we know it in the Vilcabamba culture -- their daily lives are filled with hiking up the slopes to harvest foods, cleaning, cultivating vegetables and picking fruits. There is no such thing as formal exercise, but rather a life full of activity.

How Are the Elderly Treated?:

Wonderfully. Aging is seen as a grace and people are given more respect as they grow older. It is said that the Vilcabamba actually look forward to getting old, to become more mature and growing as a person. There is a lot of laughter and joy at the simple things in their lives.

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