After yesterday’s discovery of the elixir of life, another way to live (nearly) forever appears in the scientific literature today.
In a paper in Science, Richard Weindruch, of the university of Wisconsin, Madison, reports that restricting calorie intake appears to extend life in rhesus monkeys.
So-called Caloric Restriction, which does not involve malnutrition, has previous been shown to extend life in a number of species. Crucially though, evidence in primates has been lacking.
In their new paper, Weindruch et al report that after 20 years, 80% of animals on calorie restricted diets survived, versus 50% of control animals permitted to eat freely.
“We have been able to show that caloric restriction can slow the aging process in a primate species,” says Weindruch (press release). “We observed that caloric restriction reduced the risk of developing an age-related disease by a factor of three and increased survival.”
The big question now is whether caloric restriction works in humans. Weindruch says he tried to eat less, but found it difficult (WSJ).
“What this paper says is while we don’t know for sure, we’ve got one extra point on the side of the people who believe it will work in humans,” David Sinclair, of Harvard Medical School, told the Boston Globe.
Steven Austad, of the University of Texas Health Science Center, told the NY Times he is less convinced, mainly because deaths deemed not due to aging are excluded in this study. Some feel it is dubious to exclude these deaths.
“Ultimately the results seem pretty inconclusive at this point,” says Austad. “I don’t know why they didn’t wait longer to publish.”
Either way, in reality isn’t a restricted diet just a living death? UCLA biologist Jay Phelan seems to think so. Phelan worked with mice on caloric restriction.
“They bit people and were more agitated,” he told the LA Times. “[Mice on a normal diet] would just sit around and let you pick them up. The trade-off just isn’t worth it.”
Image: left to right, Canto (left) 27 and on a restricted diet, and Owen (right) 29 and a control subject on an unrestricted diet / University of Wisconsin-Madison University Communications / Photo by Jeff Miller