Low calorie diets don’t boost longevity

A new study conducted by scientists at the National Institute on Aging (NIA) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) suggests following a calorie-restricted diet may not prolong longevity or reduce age-related deaths as previously thought.

The study, published in the journal Nature, concluded calorie restriction does not extend years of life or reduce age-related deaths in a 23-year study of rhesus monkeys; however, calorie restriction does extend certain aspects of health.

The survival results in the study reported today by NIA researchers differ from those published in 2009 by NIA-supported investigators at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. The Wisconsin study followed two groups of rhesus monkeys for 20 years and found that monkeys on a calorie-restricted diet lived longer than those on a standard diet.

Beyond longevity, the parallel NIA and Wisconsin studies have reported similar beneficial health effects of calorie-restriction. Both studies found that certain age-related diseases, including diabetes, arthritis, diverticulosis and cardiovascular problems, occurred at an earlier age in monkeys on the standard diet compared to those on calorie restriction. However, this observation was not statistically significant in the NIA study. NIA researchers did find that monkeys started on calorie restriction at an early age had a statistically significant reduction in cancer incidence.

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