April 5 (UPI) -- Want to live longer? If you're a primate, eating less seems to help.
Previous research has shown caloric restriction prolongs the life of macaques. Now, a new study -- published this week in the journal Communications Biology -- shows eating less also extends the lifespan of mouse lemurs, a species thought to be a good model for humans.
Scientists in France restricted the diet of a group of mouse lemurs, feeding the primates 30 percent fewer calories than a control group beginning in early adulthood. Researchers ran the experiment for ten years, tracking each lemur's health and aging.
Eating less boosted the lifespan of the mouse lemurs by 50 percent. The median survival span of lemurs in the restricted diet group was 9.6 years, while the control group survived a median of 6.4 years.
Roughly a third of the calorie-restricted lemurs were still alive by the time the last lemur in the control group died at the age of 11.3 years.
The lemurs who ate less were also able to better retain their motor skills as they age and had fewer instances of age-related pathologies, including cancer and diabetes.
Dieting lemurs also lost less white brain matter. However, the neural preservation didn't translate to improved cognitive or behavioral performance.
"The results indicate that chronic caloric restriction is currently the most effective way to extend maximum lifespan and delay the aging process in a non-human primate," researchers wrote in a news release. "The next step for the scientists is to associate chronic caloric restriction with another study parameter, such as physical exercise, in an attempt to further extend the upper limits of lifespan."