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Low-Cal Diets Kept Monkeys Healthier, But Didn't Lengthen Lives
Date:8/29/2012

By Carina Storrs
HealthDay Reporter

WEDNESDAY, Aug. 29 (HealthDay News) -- Cutting calories can lead to a number of health benefits, from better metabolism to reduced diabetes and cancer rates, and stronger immune function, according to a new study in monkeys.

The long-term study did not, however, support the notion that calorie restriction is a fountain of youth.

Over the past 70 years, researchers have described how eating fewer calories means living longer lives, at least for animals with shorter life spans to start with, such as mice and rats.

In the new study on calorie restriction in primates, which are more closely related to humans, researchers compared the health and longevity of more than 100 monkeys on diets that either supplied all the recommended daily calories (the "control" group) or about 25 percent fewer calories.

The animals that had their calories cut did not survive any longer, although they were more likely to stave off diabetes and have improved metabolism. Monkeys that started the calorie-restricted diet when they were juveniles or adolescents also gained protection from cancer and a boost in their immune response.

"I don't think we are contradicting the dogma of calorie restriction. Our study is not the direct opposite, saying 'No, it doesn't work.' It shows that it works differently," said Julie Mattison, a staff scientist at the Laboratory of Experimental Gerontology at the U.S. National Institute on Aging (NIA) in Dickerson, Md., and lead author of the study.

The study was published Aug. 29 in the online edition of Nature.

Previous studies have reported that calorie-restricted monkeys live longer, although differences in the diets used in different studies could be important, Mattison noted.

For example, a study done at the Wisconsin National Primate Research Center gave both its low-calorie and "control" monkeys a diet that was higher in sugar than
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