Starving Monkeys for Pointless Research

In an article that hit the Internet as if it meant anything, a bunch of starving monkeys seem to show that you don’t live longer on a calorie-restriced diet. But even a cursory read of the article, bleary eyed, tells me that this wasn’t a particularly good experiment and really a way to starve some monkeys and pretend something of worth was found.

Tell me if I’m reading this wrong:

Eating less cut rates of cancer and heart disease by half, for example. More than 50% of the animals were still alive, but the team detected a survival trend. Although overall mortality was the same, only 13% of the calorically restricted monkeys had died from age-related conditions, versus 37% of the control animals.

So you’re saying that the starving monkeys didn’t die of age-related illnesses, but died nonetheless? What did they die of – nothing?

They don’t answer that question, but they do go on to note a number of reasons why this might be:

One possible cause of the discrepancy, de Cabo says, is a difference in the animals’ diets. The Maryland monkeys noshed on more healthful food that included plenty of complex plant compounds, whereas the Wisconsin monkeys consumed processed food high in refined sugar. Control animals in Wisconsin also ate more than control animals in Maryland, which may even be slightly calorically restricted, de Cabo says. He notes that calorie restriction produces a bigger effect on longevity “if the control group is couch potatoes.”

Genetic variability between the groups could also be a factor. The Maryland group was more diverse, including Indian and Chinese animals, whereas the Wisconsin monkeys all came from India. Studies of other organisms have shown that genetic differences between individuals can affect the response to calorie restriction, notes molecular biologist Matt Kaeberlein of the University of Washington, Seattle, who wasn’t involved with the research.

Oh – you mean the control group is genetically different, their diets not only differed in quantity but quality, and from my quick read, one scientist discusses that the control group might be couch potatoes?

With that many variations, what will they ever prove – except that ‘more research is needed’?

Good news though: they have another 10 years of monkey-starving to go before these miserable animals finally pass – plenty of time for them to find funding for another monkey-starving experiment – and maybe this time they’ll have an actual control so that we might learn something.

Now maybe it’s the fault of the article itself – mashing up 2 different studies and confusing the hell of of readers and the author alike.

I gotta say though: good job all around, folks.

 

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