I'm still up to my eyeballs in work, so I've been AWOL over here lately. I'm not watching Hate-a-palooza either, as this week makes me grateful that I do what I do for a living instead of being a "professional" blogger. If I were the latter, I'd be obligated to watch every prime-time minute of it, which I'm not sure I could stand.
The results of this major, long-awaited study, which began in 1987, are finally in. But it did not bring the vindication calorie restriction enthusiasts had anticipated. It turns out the skinny monkeys did not live any longer than those kept at more normal weights. Some lab test results improved, but only in monkeys put on the diet when they were old. The causes of death — cancer, heart disease — were the same in both the underfed and the normally fed monkeys.
Lab test results showed lower levels of cholesterol and blood sugar in the male monkeys that started eating 30 percent fewer calories in old age, but not in the females. Males and females that were put on the diet when they were old had lower levels of triglycerides, which are linked to heart disease risk. Monkeys put on the diet when they were young or middle-aged did not get the same benefits, though they had less cancer. But the bottom line was that the monkeys that ate less did not live any longer than those that ate normally.
Rafael de Cabo, lead author of the diet study, published online on Wednesday in the journal Nature, said he was surprised and disappointed that the underfed monkeys did not live longer. Like many other researchers on aging, he had expected an outcome similar to that of a 2009 study from the University of Wisconsin that concluded that caloric restriction did extend monkeys’ life spans.
But even that study had a question mark hanging over it. Its authors had disregarded about half of the deaths among the monkeys they studied, saying they were not related to aging. If they had included all of the deaths, there was no extension of life span in the Wisconsin study, either.
“This shows the importance of replication in science,” Steven Austad, interim director of the Barshop Institute for Longevity and Aging Studies at the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio. Dr. Austad, who was not involved with either study, said that the University of Wisconsin study “was not nearly as conclusive as it was made out to be” and that the new study casts further doubt on the belief that caloric restriction extends life.
A number of researchers were just as quick to pooh-pooh the results of this and other studies indicating a similar result as they were to crow about the earlier one, which shows you where researcher bias lies. The research reaction also tells us something very interesting about our dysfunctional society.
We live in a society in which we are pummelled with food advertising almost nonstop. There's a TV show, Man vs. Food the premise of which is challenges in which people attempt to eat Brobdingnagian versions of ordinary foods. Competitive eating is covered by sports networks. This country is all about food and eating and the enjoyment of food...unless you're overweight. Then you're not supposed to be seen eating.
Marc Maron, who has his own issues with food, talked about this American obsession (and what it means) at 2008's Cracker Festival:
Now this study isn't about skinny monkeys vs. fat ones, but the fact that researchers have such a NEED to have their biases about the virtue of food deprivation be proven, and that they're so DISAPPOINTED in the result -- as if the point of research was to get a predetermined result -- that it makes me wonder just how much of this research can be trusted.
With the exception of Republican politicians, their Fox News cheerleaders, and Rush Limbaugh, no one anywhere is claiming that a diet of nothing but megaportions of fatty meats, cheeses, sugars, potatoes, and white flour breads is a healthy one. Most people are aware of what foods are nutritious and what are just empty calories, even if they don't always live up to that knowledge. But to take an attempt to eat nutritiously in moderation and turn THAT into a vice in a ridiculous attempt to make food deprivation a virtue (as this research and those who adhere to this notion do) creates a notion that a majority of Americans should be shunned for the simple "weakness" of eating -- at the same time as we're supposed to continue to throw more money at people who already have more than they could spend in a thousand lifetimes. It seems that financial gluttony is regarded as a virtue in our culture, while simply sustaining oneself has become a vice.
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