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Starve diet works for mice, not men

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WASHINGTON - So-called "starving," officially known as caloric restriction, may make worms and mice live up to 50 percent longer but it will not help humans live super-long lives, two biologists said yesterday.

They said their mathematical model showed that a lifetime of low-calorie dieting would extend a human life span by only about 7 percent, unlike smaller animals, whose life spans are affected more by the effects of starvation.

This is because restricting calories only indirectly affects life span, said John Phelan and Michael Rose of the University of California. But there are groups already cutting calories by up to a third in hopes of living to be 120 or 125.

"[S]uffering years of misery to remain super-skinny is not going to have a big payoff in terms of a longer life," said Phelan.

The idea of caloric restriction has been gaining credence as scientists test it in more and more animals.

It is easy to show that creatures that have short life spans such as mice, fish and spiders live longer if they eat less.

All things being equal, then, cutting calories by about a third should also help people to live dramatically longer, say proponents of the idea.

"All things, however, are not equal," Phelan and Rose wrote in their report, published in the journal Aging Research Reviews. "Longevity is not a trait that exists in isolation; it evolves as part of a complex life history," they wrote. Reuters

Copyright 2004 NYP Holdings, Inc. All rights reserved.

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