THE BODY ATLAS OF THE SHERPAS
Although the word Sherpa has become synonymous with porters and mountain guides, it also describes members of a group of Himalayan mountain dwellers. Over the course of centuries their bodies have perfectly adapted to life at very high altitudes. In the X
Sherpas have what’s known as the ACE gene variant. This prevents them from being afflicted by altitude sickness, which is dreaded by mountaineers. Their cells can make do with significantly less oxygen, and even in the case of low oxygen levels in the air, they can still produce enough energy to supply the Sherpas’ bodies efficiently.
Studies have shown that the cardiovascular system of Sherpas is well adapted to handling differences in altitude. In addition, they have a relatively large thoracic cavity in relation to their small stature as well as inordinately large lung volume. This endows them with 30% more strength than the average person, allowing them to carry up to 200 pounds.
The body of a Sherpa contains a particularly high level of nitric oxide— a gaseous signaling molecule that ensures blood vessels dilate so that essential oxygen can quickly be transported to crucial areas such as the muscles, brain, and heart.