Dr Felton said: "We found that the pattern of nutrient intake by wild spider monkeys, which are primarily fruit eaters, was almost identical to humans, which are omnivores. What spider monkeys and humans have in common is that they tightly regulate their daily protein intake, i.e. they appear to aim for a target amount of protein each day, regardless of whether they only ate ripe fruit or mixed in other vegetable matter as well. Finding this result in spider monkeys was unexpected because, previously, ripe fruit specialists were thought to be 'energy maximisers'. In other words, they would aim to maximise their daily energy intake. Our findings show this is not the case.
"The consequence of tight protein regulation is the same for monkeys and humans: if the diet is poor in protein but rich in carbohydrates and fats (energy dense food) individuals will end up ingesting a great deal of energy in order to obtain their protein target, which can lead to weight gain. This 'protein leverage effect' is thought to play a significant role in the human obesity problem found in modern western societies. Our results suggest that an adjustment of the nutritional balance of diets as a means to manage human obesity might similarly be an option for mitigating obesity in captive primates.
"Our findings are also interesting from an evolutionary point of view. Similarity in the regulatory pattern of protein intake between distantly related species, such as humans and spider monkeys, possessing very different dietary habits, may indicate that the evolutionary origins
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