Does Restricting Rhesus Monkey Calorie Intake Improve Life Expectancy?

The diet of the rhesus (say it five times fast and it sounds like Reese’s!) monkey, one of the human race’s closest relatives, is very unrestricted. The monkeys, which primarily reside in southeast Asia, feast on roots, fruit, seeds, bark, as well as insects and small animals. So what if that endless buffet suddenly became restricted?

Well the National Institute on Aging (NIA) has been conducting a study restricting them since 1987. The study, which restricted the daily calorie intake of adult male rhesus monkeys by about 30%, was intended to improve life expectancy in the monkeys. Scientists hope that studies on the monkeys will lead to new discoveries for human life expectancy. Only recently has it come to a conclusion.

Sorry to inform you guys that the study found that limiting the monkey diets do not yield a longer life span. This may not be all that shocking. What is shocking is that the finding was sharply different from a 2009 study at the University of Wisconsin, that found calorie restriction significantly lowered the life expectancy of rhesus monkeys. I’m not sure how both studies could have such drastically different results, but I trust the one that has been going on for multiple decades.

I can’t help but have a sympathetic response to such studies. Maybe it’s because I’m not a scientist or researcher that I don’t appreciate the study like I should, but I can’t how can they do that to these poor monkeys? I’m sure animal activists are outraged by such studies. How would you like to have your diet being significantly limited for the rest of your lifetime? I can’t imagine having my diet limited by 30%, even if there was a chance of my life expectancy improving. I honestly think I would starve. My question is this: it took over 25 years to finally figure out the results, in that time, how many rhesus monkeys were killed from starvation?

I’m sure if the study did yield positive results I would have a different response. Scientists still have high hopes for future human life expectancy, but it starts with rhesus monkey calorie restriction before we can do it to the human race, and it’s a shame these animals have to go through it.



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