Subtracting Calories May Not Add Years To Life
Scientists have known for decades that lab rats and mice will live far longer than normal if they're fed a super-low-calorie diet, and that's led some people to eat a near-starvation diet in the hopes that it will extend the human life span, too.
But a new study in monkeys suggests they may be disappointed.
The long-awaited results of this study, which started back in 1987, show that rhesus monkeys fed a diet with 30 percent fewer calories than normal did not live unusually long lives.
The monkey study is about as close as it's possible to get to knowing how caloric restriction might affect the life spans of people, says Rafael de Cabo of the National Institute on Aging in Baltimore, noting that humans are so long-lived that a long-term study wouldn't be practical.
He explains that the study involved about 120 monkeys. Some were assigned a regular diet, while the others got 30 percent fewer calories than normal. And if you walk into the lab, he says, it's obvious who is eating the low-calorie meals: "The males are about 25 percent smaller than the control males, so it is an obvious difference in terms of body weights and in terms of overall size of the monkeys."
But what doesn't look different is their life spans. Now that enough animals in each group have died, researchers have been able to do a comparison, which they reported in the journal Nature. It turns out that even though the low-calorie group seemed to enjoy better health, they didn't live longer.
COMMENT: This study gives a certain wry satisfaction to those of us who try, but will never be in the 4% body fat club. Taking into account the study I posted on the equivalence of 30 minutes of daily exercise to 60 minutes, I conclude as did the Greeks a couple of thousand years ago, moderation is the key to living a well and long life. I await Odysseus' coments.