Does Less Food Mean Longer Life?

Articles
July 15, 2009

Could caloric restriction or just possibly consuming the recommended portion of food, really be the key to a longer, disease free life? Well, this seems to be the case for our closest primitive relative, the rhesus monkey. An update in the July 10th publication of the research journal Science, has demonstrated a significant slowing in the aging process of monkeys following calorie-restricted diets. The lean-diet-extended-life phenomenon was first confirmed in lab rats in 1935. The connection caused quite a stir and resulted in a variety of studies exploring the issue. Rodents, yeasts and ringworms were studied, and specifically calorie-restricted rodents demonstrated a 20 to 80 percent increase in lifespan. Due to numerous variations in the subjects studied, scientists could not justifiably apply the results to humans - a common roadblock in animal and fungi lab studies. A research team from the University of Wisconsin has been studying a troop of rhesus monkeys for the past 20 years. Seventy six monkeys were included in the study, half were allowed to consume food at their leisure, and the other half were restricted to 30 percent less food. In order to avoid malnutrition, the calorie-restricted group was also administered vitamin and mineral supplements. The average lifespan of the rhesus monkey is 27 as compared to the average American, whose life expectancy is approximately 78. Now in their late middle age, comes an update on the current health and mortality of the rhesus monkeys. Sixty-three percent of the calorie-restricted animals are still alive versus 45% of their free-feeding relatives. Of the 76 monkeys, 33 are still alive; 13 from the “overeater” or control group and 20 from the calorie restricted group. The free-feeders also died from age-related complications at three times the rate of the calorie-restricted monkeys, 14 versus 5 respectively.

Could caloric restriction or just possibly consuming the recommended portion of food, really be the key to a longer, disease free life?  Well, this seems to be the case for our closest primitive relative, the rhesus monkey. An update in the July 10th publication of the research journal Science, has demonstrated a significant slowing in the aging process of monkeys following calorie-restricted diets.  The lean-diet-extended-life phenomenon was first confirmed in lab rats in 1935. The connection caused quite a stir and resulted in a variety of studies exploring the issue.  Rodents, yeasts and ringworms were studied, and specifically calorie-restricted rodents demonstrated a 20 to 80 percent increase in lifespan. Due to numerous variations in the subjects studied, scientists could not justifiably apply the results to humans - a common roadblock in animal and fungi lab studies.

A research team from the University of Wisconsin has been studying a troop of rhesus monkeys for the past 20 years. Seventy six monkeys were included in the study, half were allowed to consume food at their leisure, and the other half were restricted to 30 percent less food. In order to avoid malnutrition, the calorie-restricted group was also administered vitamin and mineral supplements. The average lifespan of the rhesus monkey is 27 as compared to the average American, whose life expectancy is approximately 78.

Now in their late middle age, comes an update on the current health and mortality of the rhesus monkeys. Sixty-three percent of the calorie-restricted animals are still alive versus 45% of their free-feeding relatives. Of the 76 monkeys, 33 are still alive; 13 from the “overeater” or control group and 20 from the calorie restricted group.  The free-feeders also died from age-related complications at three times the rate of the calorie-restricted monkeys, 14 versus 5 respectively.

The calorie-restricted group suffered fewer cancers, less cardiovascular disease, sustained optimal brain health (motor control and memory were markedly better) and last but not least showed no signs of diabetes despite the commonality of diabetes in monkeys.

What can we learn from this study? The top line is, 15 years from now when the researchers have their final results, the conclusion will most likely be that limiting calories and eating the proper mix of protein, legumes, vegetables and grains will lead to longer life in both monkeys and humans. But, don’t we know that already? The problem is not knowledge of how to eat, but the execution of how we eat.