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Change Your Life
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November 25, 2009
By David Gutierrez
Monkeys fed a calorie-restricted diet were significantly less likely to die from cancer, heart disease or diabetes than monkeys fed a standard lab diet, in a study conducted by researchers from Washington University and published in the journal Science.
Researchers observed 76 adult rhesus monkeys for as long as 20 years. Half the monkeys were fed standard lab chow, while the others were fed a diet with 30 percent fewer calories and a higher concentration of vitamins and minerals. The researchers found that monkeys fed the standard lab diet were three times more likely to die of age-related diseases than the monkeys on the calorie-reduced diet. They were twice as likely to develop heart disease or pre-cancerous growths. While five monkeys on the standard lab diet developed diabetes and 11 became pre-diabetic, none of the monkeys on the reduced calorie diet developed blood sugar problems.
Brain scans revealed that there was less atrophy in the gray matter of monkeys on the reduced calorie diet, leading the researchers to state that monkeys on the restricted diet “appear to be biologically younger than the normally fed animals.”
Studies in yeast, worms, flies, spiders, fish, mice and rats have all previously shown that animals on calorie restricted diets tend to live longer, while one study found that humans practicing the diet had the heart function of a people an average of 16 years younger.
Much remains unknown about the mechanisms behind the observed effects, as well as potential side effects, researchers warned. One popular hypothesis is that the diets lengthen age because they put the body into crisis mode, causing it to shut down processes such as reproduction, which accelerate aging. No studies have been carried out on the psychological or social effects of the diet.
Further, a UCLA researcher concluded from a meta-analysis that humans restricting their calorie intakes by 30 percent would extend their life spans only two years, on average.
People should not practice calorie restriction without consulting a physician to make sure they are getting enough of the right nutrients to remain healthy.