Caloric restriction: The key to a long life?

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Would you be willing to go on a diet … for the rest of your life?

What if I told you it would dramatically reduce your odds of getting cancer, heart disease and diabetes?

Perhaps more folks will start considering the trade-off between a long life and an enjoyable life after reading a study released today by the journal Science.

Researchers in Wisconsin have been feeding 38 rhesus monkeys a restricted diet that contains 30% fewer calories than standard monkey chow for as long as 20 years. Those calorically restricted monkeys had half the risk of developing cardiovascular disease or cancer compared with the 38 control monkeys on the normal diet.


What’s more, none of the low-cal animals developed Type 2 diabetes. That compares to five diabetic monkeys and another 11 that were pre-diabetic in the control group.

Overall, the researchers found that monkeys on the regular diet were three times as likely to die of age-related causes during the study than the ones on caloric restriction. An article about the study appears in Science News.

Researchers said that, because monkeys are close relatives of humans, it’s quite likely that humans could live longer and healthier lives by paring back their calories too. But with two-thirds of the country classified as overweight or obese, it hardly seems like a trend that will take off.

-- Karen Kaplan