“A study on rats”

MICHEL: I am weighing my turkey.
SOOKIE: Why?
MICHEL: A group of scientists did a study on rats where they cut their daily calories by thirty percent.
SOOKIE: And you felt left out?
MICHEL: No, the rats lived thirty percent longer. And the scientists were so impressed that they cut their own calories just like the rats.

Michel is referring to a famous and oft-cited 1934 study, which found that when scientists cut the calories of mice by 30-40% but still gave them all the nutrients they needed, they lived longer than expected – sometimes twice as long as the expected lifespan.

It has been difficult to prove conclusively that this works on humans also, and sometimes it doesn’t even work on mice – the mice have to be young and well-fed to begin with for the calorie reduction to be of any use. Older and leaner mice died earlier than expected when on a calorie-restricted diet (which doesn’t seem like good news for Michel, who isn’t all that young, and already slim). Furthermore, mice on a calorie-restricted diet can find it harder to fight infections.

Since 1997, The Calorie Restriction Society has been collecting data on its 900 human members who are on calorie-restricted diets, but it may be decades before a definitive answer is reached. However, a 2012 study on monkeys found no difference in lifespan between subjects who ate a normal healthy diet and those who ate a calorie-restricted healthy diet.

It’s notable that Michel is eating turkey, since in the Pilot episode he said he didn’t eat meat. Possibly that was a dietary fad, or perhaps he only considers red meat to be “meat”.

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