The Top 10 Science Stories of 2012

A devastating storm, a new phase of Mars exploration, a recipe for a pandemic flu--these and other events highlight the year in science and technology

The Top 10 Science Stories of 2012, Starvation Diet, Longevity
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Starvation Diet Fails to Boost Longevity

When making New Year’s resolutions to diet and stay fit, remember: what you eat may be more important than how much you eat.

Scientists have found that a significant reduction in caloric intake does not extend primates’ life spans. Rather, genetics and healthy eating appear to be elements with higher impact, according to a report published in Nature. (Scientific American is part of Nature Publishing Group.)

Scientists funded by the National Institute on Aging (NIA) looked at the diets of rhesus monkeys over a 25-year period, feeding an experimental group 30 percent less than control animals. Whereas previous studies have indicated that other animals—including rats and roundworms—seem to age more slowly when consuming fewer calories, the monkeys were unaffected.

The Nature study refutes an earlier body of work by the Wisconsin National Primate Research Center (WNPRC), which found that rhesus monkeys did, indeed, benefit from a calorie-restricted diet. The previous findings likely resulted from a less healthy menu, however. WNPRC monkeys were given food containing 28.5 percent sucrose compared with 3.9 percent sucrose at the NIA. Consuming less unhealthy food could have been enough to alter results.

Although observational evidence indicates that reducing calories lengthens lives, the true implications for humans remain uncertain. The recipe for a longer life likely depends on a combination of factors, rather than hinging on how much you put on your plate. —Mollie Bloudoff-Indelicato

» Calorie Restriction Fails to Lengthen Life Span in Primates
» Why Do Some People Live to 100? An Instant Egghead Video

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