Journalists are in love with reporting new findings about a disease and a particular risk factor, but they are not so keen on following what happens later and reporting on whether the finding was replicated – and just over half the time is later disproved.
Down crashed one of the great hopes of anti-aging medicine recently with the news that calorie restriction did not lift longevity in rhesus monkeys.
It was a surprising finding, as Sharon Begley of Reuters reported in an elegantly written, nicely balanced story.
In 2006, a separate study of starvation-level diets in close-but-you’re-not-quite-family primates had indicated that monkeys were less likely to get “heart disease, diabetes, cancer and other diseases of aging” after abstaining from normal eating for 20 years.
As Begley notes:
“They also lived longer: By 2009, 80 percent of the free-eating Wisconsin monkeys had died of age-related illness, but only 50 percent of calorie-restricted monkeys had. Those findings, the scientists reported at the time, showed “that CR slows aging in a primate species.”
Also, earlier research had confirmed that lab rats, mice, yeast, fruit flies and round worms fed up to 40 percent less than normal lived 30 percent longer, and sometimes even more, Begley observes.
So, hopes were running high and negative findings from the new National Institute on Aging study were not expected.