A Low Calorie Diet May Be the Key to a Longer and Healthier Life


A Low Calorie Diet May Be the Key to a Longer and Healthier Life

A 2009 image of rhesus monkeys. The 27-year-old monkey on the left was given a diet with fewer calories while the 29-year-old monkey on the right was allowed to eat as much as it liked.
Credit: Jeff Miller/University of Wisconsin-Madison

By coming together, the University of Wisconsin-Madison (UWM) and the National Institute on Aging (NIA) have put to rest one long-standing controversy. Some years ago, in 2009, the University of Wisconsin-Madison discovered that a low calorie diet led to some significant improvements in health, such as a reduction in cancer rates, cardiovascular disease and diabetes. They studies involved monkeys and shown that those who ate less, not only were healthier but also lived longer. However, NIA observed no significant change.

“These conflicting outcomes had cast a shadow of doubt on the translatability of the caloric restriction paradigm as a means to understand ageing and what creates age-related disease vulnerability,” says UW-Madison Associate Professor of Medicine Rozalyn Anderson.

Nevertheless, when the two organisations started working together, they found that, in fact, a low calorie diet does work, and they also found out why they got different results. The first difference between the two and how they went about it, was that each one used monkeys of different ages. For instance, analysis has shown that one such low calorie diet benefitted older monkeys, but saw no results in younger ones.

What’s more, the control group used by the NIA were given less food than those given by UWM. This control group was made out of those monkeys whose diets weren’t restricted. The UWM let theirs eat as much as they wanted, whereas NIA gave them a ration. Lastly, there was a big difference between the type of food given. While NIA gave their monkeys organic food, UWM served them with processed, rich in sugar food.

However, when the both teams worked together, the results were identical. They also observed that males benefited more from one such dietary change than the females. Now, if these findings also translate to humans, is unknown. But chances are that they do.

There have been such examples, even in the US. There are correlations between a suffering economy and a longer life span. The most notable of these examples is during the Great Depression from the 1930’s. Of course, there are other reasons for why people lived longer overall, but it, nevertheless, points to a connection to one’s diet.