Quick Hit: Turns out People Aren’t Rats

Check it out:

Calorie restriction, a diet that is low in calories and high in nutrition, may not be as effective at extending life in people as it is in rodents, according to scientists at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.

You don’t say.

Go read the whole article. Some interesting stuff there. I’ve got lots of thoughts, but I have to go write for people who pay me.

21 thoughts on “Quick Hit: Turns out People Aren’t Rats

  1. Yeah, I actually heard from a movement leader who was really unhappy with that post I linked to (which I thought was fairly reasonable, all things considered). Pointing and laughing’s probably not a good idea.

    I encourage all the pointed throat-clearing you like, though.

  2. Okay, as a food-loving vegan *not* on a high-protein diet, this study is kind of awesome for me. And no worries, Shapelings, my vegan diet includes lots of yummy goodies (you can see the book Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World or Veganomicon for examples, even if you just want to reduce animal consumption and not be vegan–sugar, fat, and salt are vegan!). I mean, since I am anyway. These benefits (which may or may not be repeated in future studies) are a nice side effect, that’s all.

    Ummm… I had heard some in the movement say they would do CR anyway, just because they felt better–I guess we’ll see what comes of that, if it was true or not. I think the ability to do that must come down to physiology, not willpower–like, it’s just easier for some people, hormonally, to eat less food. So for them, it’s no big deal to “restrict”, they don’t feel restricted. And for others, especially with a history of forced restriction, it is just way too awful to be worth it. I’m just trying to figure out why such different communities exist–probably it just comes down to different bodily experiences (NOT willpower!).

  3. the findings suggest that when people adjust their diets to improve health and lengthen life, they should control not only calories and fat but also keep an eye on protein.

    So we have various sources telling us to avoid: fat, because it causes heart disease; carbs because they cause diabetes; and now protein, because it shortens your life. What does that leave to eat, exactly?

  4. People aren’t like rats? Then how come all those miracle cancer treatments that worked for research rodents have made the disease a non-issue for humans?

    Oh, never mind. I guess we could have seen that one coming after all.

  5. This part was funny:
    He says it was not easy to cut protein because those on calorie restriction have to do a lot of calculating and juggling to ensure they take in very few calories and still get adequate nutrition.

    No, really? It’s a good thing that these people have nothing else in their lives to which they might need to devote brain power.

  6. Just a note from a Shapeling on the science side of things…

    Non-human primates are not ideal for research, however, one cannot ethically test pre-Phase I medications (I’m not talking about cosmetics and such) on humans – which would be ideal. Lots of people (for instance the CR folks) use the animal experiments as proof for their theories, however, if found to be safe and at all efficacious in NHP, it needs to be tested in humans before anyone can say whether or not a trial has worked.

    I just want to make sure we’re taking out our righteous anger on the people who deserve it.

  7. Oh yeah, I wasn’t trying to state that animal experimentation is bad, Faith, just that it’s a bit disinguous – or perhaps just naieve – for people (e.g., some science reporters, though this article seems pretty measured) to be shocked! shocked! when differences arise.

  8. What I find shocking is that people would make recommendations or changes to their lives based on these kinds of experiments. ‘Cause seriously, until it’s tested on people (via that whole pesky Scientific Method thing), it’s just an idea (and even then, it’s unlikely to be definitive, since people are so damn complicated).

    CRON might make you live longer, or it might make you sprout an extra head. Nobody really knows yet. Selling it as a healthy, longevity-boosting lifestyle is ignorant at best, and potentially dangerous at worst.

  9. Becky, you’re supposed to eat a balance of all those things. Just, y’know, not enough to cause the dying.

    Personally? I think that, like the cats in the last thread, most people would naturally eat a balance of fat, carbs, and protein if no one was shouting at them from birth about what foods were bad or good or caused a disease or whatever. (Note: I am not a scientist.)

  10. Tari, my cynical side thinks that telling people to change their diets is a sneaky way of getting around the ethical problem of not testing on humans. You can’t tell people to do something that would harm them, but you can suggest that something might be good for them, ’cause it worked on the rats … and then, y’know, look at statistics five years later.

  11. Bonnie, thanks for the orthorexia link. It reminded me of a friend who went from cutting some foods to vegetarian to vegan to someone who couldn’t eat a single thing I served at one party. She’s been working her way back to a more inclusive diet and seems to have a much better relationship with food.

  12. Yep, it is pretty obvious that people and mice/rats are not the same in many ways. I saw a study summary the other day where the title was something along the lines of drinking chamomile tea is good for diabetes; turns out that it was done in rodents and it was chamomile extract, not chamomile tea.

    But you’d think that the Minnesota Starvation Study would’ve put paid to the idea that calorie restriction is a good thing for humans. Plus the common sense approach that humans use our brains a lot more than mice do, and those brains need food.

  13. ho-HO! Humans? Rodents? Different? Golly!

    Perhaps that explains why my hanging out in this here cage lined with cedar shavings hasn’t caused a giant hand to descend from above bearing tasty treat pellets.

    And I was really looking forward to the tasty pellets. *pout*

    Rats!

  14. Although the CRON website said you should never dip below a 18.5 BMI, and should always eat enough to have energy to exercise and live life, every person I’ve seen who practices this is absurdly emaciated and slow-moving..

    Wow, Bonnie, way to stereotype a whole group of people. This is exactly what people usually say about fat people: “They may say they’re eating reasonably and exercising, but every fat person I’ve ever seen is lazy/slow-moving/never exercises/insert offensive stereotype here”.

    I’m not saying that eating 1200 calories a day isn’t silly, but I don’t think it’s fair to characterize some other group in the exact same way we wish people wouldn’t characterize us.

  15. You know, years ago I heard a comedy routine based on this basic idea. I think it may have been the late, great George Carlin talking about testing the effects on rats of various drugs. There was a priceless line about how if you have a rat smoke a joint that’s roughly equivilant to a person smoking an entire dining room table of hashish, perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised that the rat becomes disoriented.

    I think I’ll go on eating whatever my body seems to be craving, getting some reasonable exercise on a fairly regular basis, and just plain doing my best to enjoy the lifespan I have. If I treat myself reasonalby well, it should be an okay one, considering the fact that on my mother’s side people tend to live a fairly average length, and on my father’s side they nearly all live well into their eighties and nineties.

    After all, if I’m hit by a bus tomorrow, I’d hate my last thought to be ‘well crap, I guess I could have had that cupcake after all.’ Or that eggplant. Or that lamb chop. Or that baked potato.

    The rats may do as they please.

  16. I always figured that the extreme-calorie-restricted diet didn’t make a person LIVE longer, it just made it SEEM longer.

    Honestly? I’d rather have 70 enjoyable years where I didn’t have to obsess over eating and exercise, than 120 years where I was weighing every lettuce leaf that went in my mouth.

    I’ve seen news stories on people who did the extreme restriction thing; it seemed very, well, restrictive: they couldn’t go out to eat with friends, they never took part in the traditional sort of holiday meals. I would find that kind of lifestyle very isolating.

  17. My favorite study was one in which they looked at severe calorie restriction in some primate, probably chimps (too lazy to actually look up the study right now) and some of them had longer lifespans. However, the other half of the group had horrible mortality rates….the reason being, they all went nuts because of food restriction and tended to kill each other. Whups.

  18. We’re NOT?!

    But I wanted to learn how to look all cute cleaning my whiskers off the way they do… and jump like six times my own body length.

    Also, I wanted the power to survive for two weeks by eating a single shoe.

    Rats are so awesome. I was thinking the other day that I missed having a pocket pet, and wondering which species I’d want if I get one again. I decided on rats.

    And I don’t care if they’re fat. :3

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