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.



Do You Know What Your Veggie Burgers are Made From…Really?

Let me start by mentioning that I don’t know if this is for real. I hope not.

The video above links to a story on a Japanese researcher who is perfecting a process of making artificial meat from human feces.

(Long pause here to let that sink in…OK…ready to go on?)

While there’s a lot one can say about this, my point might be a bit different that most of the commenters out there.

As someone who tries to avoid processed food as much as is possible, this adds to my reasoning why.

You never really know what you’re eating.

There is a long and rich history of food adulteration going back centuries. I have a wonderfully disgusting book on the subject named ‘Swindled!’ that I should review here (but haven”t because I’m lazy).

The one big takeaway from the book is this: the longer the chain that the food needs to travel to get to your table, the more likely it has been adulterated along the way.

The point being – even if you know that you would never order a burger made from the above process – how do you know some didn’t slip in?

Let’s score another one for eating natural foods, being a locavore, and knowing the farmer that feeds you.

Researcher: Losing Weight Doesn’t Improve Health Because People Can’t Lose Weight

Maybe it’s me.

Maybe I’m the dope.

I’m not a researcher, but I simply don’t know how to grasp the following report out of Australia:

Losing weight is often touted as a way to improve health, but many weight-loss programs may not help stave off disease since people tend to gain the weight back, Australian researchers say.

What’s better is the methodology our researchers used:

To test the potential impact of different diets, the researchers ran two computer simulations: One included a low-fat diet, the other a diet rich in whole grains and vegetables plus 180 minutes of exercise per week.

According to the models, people lost an average of 8 to 12 pounds on the diets and kept the weight off for an average of 6 months. But the pounds slowly crept back on, and after less than 6 years, the dieters were back where they started — negating any improvement in health from the weight loss.

In addition, the researchers estimate that only about 3 percent of Australia’s population would participate in weight-loss programs.

That’s right. They sat in front of a computer the whole time and based their data on 2 diets – low fat and low calorie – that we know quite well don’t work in the long run.

I work with data all the time, and know how easy it is to feed in a bunch of numbers, run an analysis against it, and have it spit out beautiful, detailed results – which are completely and entirely wrong. It just takes one bad number or one erroneous assumption and it all falls to pieces.

And besides all that – what is the point? To come to a conclusion that people can’t improve their health losing weight if they can’t keep it off is so obvious that I can’t conceive why it would take more than 5 minutes sitting in an armchair to figure this one out.

And yet it gets printed in a respected journal on obesity.

Is it any wonder that modern science is essentially useless in helping us fat folks get thinner?