The mere thought of going a diet is enough to put the fear of life into some people, but studies have long suggested that a diet known as caloric restriction can provide massive health benefits - including an extended life span.
Caloric restriction, which entails consuming up to 30 per cent fewer calories than normal, has in prior studies proven that the life span of animals such as mice and dogs can be extended by as much as 40 per cent.
In order to determine if the benefits could be applicable to humans, US scientists led by gerontologist Richard Weindruch of the University of Wisconsin began a lengthy study into the effects of caloric restriction on primates in 1989.
20 years later, results from the study, carried out on 76 Rhesus monkeys, have been published by ScienceNOW and reveal that monkeys whose diets were unrestricted were three times more likely to have died. Researchers have stated that the monkeys on the caloric restriction diet have shown a far-greater resistance to diabetes, cancer, heart and brain disease.
The Rhesus monkey on the left ate unrestricted.
The study's first results, published today, have been met by a mixed reaction from critics. Leonard Guarente, a biologist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has said that "the survival data needs to be fleshed out a little bit more before we can say that caloric restriction extends life in primates".
Catherine Collins, spokeswoman for the British Dietetic Association, adds that "monkeys may be a close relation but there are significant differences which means not everything we see in them can be translated to humans".
Although caloric restriction appears to have its benefits, consuming 30 per cent fewer calories than usual isn't easily managed and nutritionists have warned that "any such diet would need to be very balanced to avoid malnutrition". Due to the complications involved with undertaking such a diet, biologists have been searching for drugs that may one day mimic the effects a caloric restriction.
In the meantime, if ever there was an image depicting the supposed-importance of a reduced-calorie diet, this is it:
Anybody care to guess which of the above monkeys ate until it had it's fill?