Restricting Calories Does Not Necessarily Extend Monkeys’ Lives
2012-09-10 0:00


A calorie-restricted diet can extend the lives of organisms from yeast to fruit flies to rodents, as well as improving their health and preventing disease. But just because cutting calories helps animals with short lifespans doesn’t mean that humans will reap similar benefits. So the 2009 discovery that calorie-restricted diets also increase the longevity of already-longer-lived rhesus monkeys was exciting news.

But don’t pull out a calorie calculator quite yet. The latest word on the subject, from a new paper in Nature, suggests that the 2009 study might not tell the whole story: this team found that caloric restriction doesn’t actually grant rhesus monkeys longer lives.

In this new 23-year-long study from the National Institute on Aging (NIA), rhesus monkeys, which have an average lifespan of 27 years in captivity, ate either a nutritious diet as control subjects or the same diet slashed by 30 percent. Some of the monkeys had their calorie intake restricted from a young age, while for others, the restricted diet only set in when they were 16 to 23 years old.

For the old-onset monkeys, a restricted diet improved health but did not increase longevity or influence cause of death. But among the young-onset monkeys, cutting calories significantly improved neither health nor longevity. (Although some of the young-onset rhesus monkeys are still alive, based on estimated probability statistics, there is less than a 0.1 percent chance that the calorie-restricted subjects will significantly outlive the controls.)


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