Subtract Calories, Add Years?

Eat less — a whole lot less — and you could live a whole lot longer.

A twenty-year UW study of Rhesus macaque monkeys suggests a reduced-calorie diet not only slows the aging process, but also delays age-related health problems such as cancer, heart disease, and brain atrophy.

The study includes a group of monkeys that eat as much as they want and another group on a severely restricted regimen. Funded by the National Institute on Aging, the effort began in 1989, and since then, half of the animals on the all-you-can-eat plan are still living, compared with 80 percent of those on a diet.

The monkeys have an average life span of about twenty-seven years in captivity.

Richard Weindruch, a professor in the UW School of Medicine and Public Health leading the study, says the monkeys on restricted diets have shown no signs of diabetes, a common condition in the monkeys that have free rein when it comes to food.

Scientists have studied calorie restriction for decades, starting with research involving rodents in the 1930s. But the similarities between primates and people mean these findings could provide the most insight yet into calories and impact on human health.

Published in the Fall 2009 issue

Tags: Faculty, Health and medicine, Research

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