Skipping seconds at your next holiday meal may not be a bad idea. Preliminary research in animals suggests that eating a reduced-calorie diet may prevent several chronic diseases including cancer, heart disease and endometriosis. In a long-term study comparing normal and reduced-calorie diets in monkeys, monkeys that ate 30% fewer calories were about half as likely to develop chronic diseases as a "control" group of animals that ate a normal diet, according to researchers at the National Institute on Aging (NIA) in Baltimore, Maryland.
The NIA researchers noted that many previous studies in several different animal species have shown that cutting calories can increase longevity. While the monkeys on the restricted diet tend to be about 20% smaller than other monkeys, they are no less physically active. Restricting calories appeared to have the biggest effect on diseases that involve abnormal cell growth, such as cancer and endometriosis. (Endometriosis is a condition in which the lining of the uterus grows abnormally and can invade other parts of the body.)
The researchers also noted that there have been about half as many deaths in the group of monkeys eating fewer calories. Even if calorie restriction is eventually shown to provide similar health benefits in people, cutting calories by 30% could be difficult for increasingly overweight North Americans. But the research in monkeys may lead to drugs that can mimic the effects of calorie restriction, Lane suggested.
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