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Low-calorie diet seems to extend lives of primates
Eat less, live longer? It seems to work for monkeys: A 20-year study found cutting calories by almost a third slowed their aging and fended off death.
What about those other primates, humans? Nobody knows yet if people in a world better known for “pigging out” could stand the deprivation long enough to make a difference, much less how it would affect our more complex bodies. Still, small attempts to tell are under way.
“What we would really like is not so much that people should live longer but that people should live healthier,” said Dr. David Finkelstein of the National Institute on Aging. The monkeys seem to do both.
“The fact that there’s less disease in these animals is striking,” Finkelstein said. He believes the diet change is reprogramming metabolism in a way that slows aging.
Captive rhesus monkeys have an average lifespan of 27 years, so spotting an effect takes a lot longer than in short-lived mice. The newest study involves 76 monkeys – 30 tracked since 1989 and 46 since 1994. They were normal-sized adults eating a normal diet for a captive monkey, a special vitamin-enriched chow plus some fruit treats.
Then researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison assigned half the monkeys to the reduced-calorie diet, cutting their daily intake by 30 percent but ensuring what they did eat was properly nourishing.
So far, 37 percent of the monkeys who kept their regular diet have died of age-related diseases compared with just 13 percent of the calorie-cut monkeys, a nearly threefold difference, the researchers reported.
Death wasn’t the only change. The calorie-cut monkeys had less than half the incidence of cancerous tumors or heart disease of the monkeys who ate normally. Brain scans showed less age-related shrinkage in the dieting monkeys. Those animals also retained more muscle, something else that tends to waste with age.
The federal government is funding a small study to see if some healthy normal-weight people could sustain a 25 percent calorie cut for two years and if doing so signals some changes that might, over a long enough time, reduce age-related disease.

Notice the photo of the two primates: This May 28 photo from the University of Wisconsin shows Rhesus monkeys Canto, 27, left, who is on a restricted diet, and Owen, 29, right, who is on an unrestricted diet, at the Wisconsin National Primate Research Center in Madison.c

Source: LAURAN NEERGAARD; The Associated Press, July 10th, 2009
Dr. Iverson's Comment
 
It’s long been understood that there has been no magic drug or supplement that can expand life and good health as well as cutting back calories. The challenge is how to practically cut calories to this extent in a nation where there is so much high-caloric low-nutritive food.
Calorie counting has been a fad for weight loss diets which invariably fail after some time because the amount of food eaten is so minimized. People have also resorted to fasting a day or more a week or even cutting out the early or late meal to restrict calories. Instead of either of these approaches, I recommend patients to follow Nature’s Path and eat as our ancestors.
If we ate as our ancestors we feel satiated by our food and yet have minimal caloric impact. How did they do it? One word: VEGETABLES!   Vegetables are bulky in size, full of flavor and very low in calories. In fact you can eat a whole head of lettuce and consume the same amount of calories as eating a bite of chocolate! How is that for filling?   By eating an abundance of vegetables at each meal, you are occupying space with low calorie food that is also high in the vitamins and minerals needed for good health. 
We don’t need to fast or be on fad diets to lower our calories; we just need to make better food choices. Boost up your non-starchy vegetables (especially raw greens) to at least one half or more the total weight of your entire food intake. From this vegetable intake strive to eat about 80% raw. Go ahead and eat all you want of these veggies! Gain all the benefits of a low calorie diet without the deprivations.
Be well!
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