Call for debate
Worked in a monkey lab?
Wisconsin diet and aging study gains $7.9 million grant
June 13, 2006
by Terry Devitt
A pioneering long-term study of the links between diet and aging in monkeys will continue through 2011 with the help of a new $7.9 million grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
First initiated at the National Primate Research Center at the
University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1989, the study examines the effects of a reduced-calorie diet on the aging process and health of 76 rhesus monkeys. It is one of only two long-term studies of its kind, and during the course of 16 years has shown that a nutritious but reduced-calorie diet has multiple benefits for health and aging. [see Starvation Diet Not a Major Life Extender for Humans for recent scientific criticism.]
UW, Madison refuses to provide basic information to the public such as the number of monkeys individually caged. Documents suggest that there may be over 1000 monkeys caged individually, a recognized cause of psychological distress, sometimes resulting in severe self-mutilation.
What is known with relative certainty is that the cohort of monkeys in the caloric restriction study, ballyhooed below, are individually housed. We know this because the investigators point this out in their published papers.
The headline on the UW press release, "Wisconsin diet and aging study gains $7.9 million grant," is a good example of the reason that university administrators around the country defend their vivisection programs.
In 2005, taxpayers were fleeced by Weindruch for $761,743 to study dietary restriction in rhesus monkeys.
In 2003, $1,416,472.
1998, $ 796,983.
1997, $ 839,239.
1996, $ 809,468.
1995, $ 701,381.
1994, $ 670,854.
1994 through 2006 = $18,572,883.
That works out to be $244,380 per monkey over the 12 years for which data is available, or, about $20,000 a year per monkey.
The big discovery they've made with our money, and the monkeys' misery, is that lean monkeys are, in some respects, more healthy than obese monkeys. Wow.
Is this information important? Should we change our own dietary habits because of the information gleaned from these psychologically stressed monkeys?
Well, much more data from human dietary research demonstrates without a shred of doubt that obesity and/or lack of exercise are closely associated with a cacophony of health disorders. This information seems to be having little effect on our lifestyle decisions. Whether the monkey data means
anything at all relative to human health seems a pointless question given the fact that the human data is generally ignored.
But maybe the average Jane and Joe are just uninformed. The Wisconsin primate center is unique in many ways. One of these is the fact that people who work there and at the Harlow lab next door walk between the three buildings throughout the day crossing a narrow public street. This means that we can actually go and look at them. Some of them are overweight and some are downright obese.
If those who claim that their research is justified because it saves human lives ignore the research occurring there, what is the point of it in the first place?
It's not just the lowly, perhaps not-so-bright poopscoopers who are fat. The dietary restriction study was one of the director's projects back before he took over the leadership of the center, and his wife is, well, plump.
Apparently, even she doesn't give a rip about the human data, let alone the data coming from these miserable monkeys.
This makes the entire endeavor just that much more distasteful.
But then, the UW is celebrating the money coming in, not some pretended human benefit from the monkeys' hunger. See, they can be honest and forthcoming every once in a while.